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Manchester Evening News
By Deborah Linton
Health bosses are linking the economic crisis to an alarming rise in suicides and the prescription of anti-depressant drugs. Public health chiefs in Manchester have seen thousands more patients reporting anxiety and depression since Britain was plunged into recession in 2008.
Health bosses are linking the economic crisis to an alarming rise in suicides and the prescription of anti-depressant drugs.
Public health chiefs in Manchester have seen thousands more patients reporting anxiety and depression since Britain was plunged into recession in 2008.
In the north of the city – the worst affected area– doctors last year wrote out almost 10,000 prescriptions for the most common anti-depressant drug, compared to around 7,000 at the start of 2008. The figures are contained in a gloomy report to councillors which also reveals rises in abortion and suicide rates in the city.
Public health bosses say all three measures of the region’s health have worsened amid the tough economic and jobs climate.
David Regan, Manchester’s director of public health, said: “Past experience tells us, going back to Victorian times and recessions of the 20th century specifically, you tend to get an adverse impact on health. We know from research that unemployment leads to increases in heart disease and suicide rate.
“We have a responsibility to provide a response to people who become unemployed or are worried about becoming unemployed. It is about recognising that many people are adjusting to a major change in their life. It’s trying to prevent a cycle of decline.”
Across Manchester, there was an average 8.5 per cent increase in the number of people being prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – the main drug for treating of anxiety and depression – between September 2010 and September 2011.
Just over half of people in the city claiming Incapacity Benefit, blame mental health problems as their main cause for being unable to work.
Sixty-six people took their own lives, through suicide or self harm, in 2010, compared to 40 in 2007. The abortion rate for women aged 15 to 44, which had reduced in both 2009 and 2010, has also increased in the last 12 months, according to local data.
Mr Regan said: “The reason for this increase in abortions cannot be identified but it may be due to the economic downturn, with financial difficulties and other problems influencing decisions. The economic situation does bring into sharp focus these sorts of things for people.”
However, he said he believed targeted work, including improved access to contraception, had helped to avoid a rise in the under-18 pregnancy rate – common to previous recessions.
Health chiefs have been monitoring figures for almost two years. A report to town hall scrutineers points to population studies during the 1930s, 70s and 80s that establish the link between health and job insecurity.
Mr Regan said the report would be used to argue for early support for people with mental health problems, to prevent decline and premature deaths.