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Brexit referendum led to rise in antidepressant prescriptions

Published on 21/11/18 at 09:25am

The result of the Brexit referendum led to an increase in prescriptions for antidepressants, according to a study conducted by researchers at King’s College London.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that there was a 13.4% increase in the number of prescriptions for antidepressants in the month following the referendum, in comparison to the previous year.

Meanwhile prescriptions for medicines that were “unlikely to be associated with uncertainty and depression,” decreased over the same period. The authors of the study have suggested that the Brexit referendum may have acted a as distraction for those who would have otherwise visited their doctors for other unrelated health conditions.

“This study adds to previous studies that show that events at the national level can have an effect on people's mental health or mood,” said Sotiris Vandoros, senior lecturer in health economics at King's Business School and lead author on the study.

The study however warned that: “Overall, while our findings point towards a relative increase in antidepressant prescribing as measured by DDDs per capita, results should be interpreted with caution, and further research is needed to examine whether there is any short-term relationship between the referendum result and mental health.”

The authors added that: “Our study focused on an event that was unexpected, leading to an immediate shock. From a more general perspective, this paper shows that shocks nationally can affect health, and that uncertainty about, and expectations of, future effects can have an impact on health in the short term.”

Louis Goss


Allan Young, professor of mood disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, said:  “Whilst these findings are interesting and eye catching they should be treated with great caution.”

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