7 October 2019

Research Could Indicate More Older People Seeking Help for Mental Health Conditions Says RCGP

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to findings of research by the University of East Anglia into antidepressant use in older people.

She said: "This increase in anti-depressant use among older people could indicate a greater awareness and acceptance of mental health conditions in society, and show more people over 65 are seeking help for mental health problems which in the past may have been ignored or under-treated - which are both encouraging.

"We also have much better understanding of the effectiveness of antidepressants than we did in the early 90s - and it's important to remember that current evidence shows these drugs work well when prescribed appropriately.

"GPs will only prescribe anti-depressants after a full and frank conversation with their patient, taking into account the physical, psychological and social factors potentially impacting on their health. But we will also explore alternative options to drug therapy, such as talking therapies - and we know that many older people, who perhaps are lonely, might benefit more from social prescribing schemes, for example joining a class or local community group, than traditional treatments.

"What these findings also highlight is a worrying link between mental health and social determinates of health, such as deprivation, so we need to make sure that all patients, no matter where they live, have access to alternative therapies and support, if it is felt these are more appropriate than medication.

"NHS England's long term plan pledges that every GP practice will have access to one of 3,000 new mental health therapists, and one of 1,000 social prescribers or link workers - we need this to be delivered as a matter of urgency, so that we can continue to provide the best possible mental health care to our patients."

Further Information
RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.