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Depression is 'over-diagnosed'

People are increasingly being diagnosed and medicated for depression when they are suffering from grief or sadness, researchers have found. 

A study carried out by the University of Liverpool found that although the prevalence of depressive disorders is stable in the UK and US, rates of diagnosis have increased considerably. 

Anti-depressant prescriptions increased by 10% per year between 1998 and 2010, the researchers wrote in the BMJ. And in the US, 11% of over 11s were prescribed in anti-depressant drugs. 

Professor Chris Dowrick, from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society who also works as a GP, said: “Over diagnosis is now more common than under diagnosis. Evidence shows that anti-depressant medication has little or no effect on mild depression and the passing of time and other means of support generally make people feel better.

“In order to prevent unnecessary medication with its associated side-effects, risks and costs, the diagnostic criteria for defining depression need to be tightened up. Instead of prescribing medication, more attention needs to be given to support, advice, social networks and psychological interventions. GPs could then focus on those with serious mental health needs.”

The study is available to view on the BMJ website [paywalled].