WHY ARE MORE WOM MEN DEPRESSED? A Study That Reveals One in Seven Women Will Be Treated for Depression N Raises a Disturbing Is a Question: Is Th Real Epidemic -- or the Result of Cynical Marketing by Drug Giants?
Byline: JOHN NAISH
MORE women than ever are reaching for the happy pills, it has been revealed. New research suggests there has now been a significant increase in the number of women with depression.
Women are twice as likely to suffer from the illness than they were 40 years ago, and as many as one in seven will be affected by the condition at some point in their lives -- more than double the number of men, according to a study published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology. And the result of these soaring depression levels is becoming all too clear -- a massive rise in prescriptions for antidepressant drugs.
In Ireland, it is thought some 400,000 people suffer from depression. While the exact number taking antidepressants is not known, 1.2million prescriptions for antidepressants are written annually via state-funded schemes.
In the U.S., antidepressants are the most prescribed drug. And in England, there were four times as many prescriptions for drugs such as Prozac and Cipramil in 2009 than 18 years before. Women are currently twice as likely to be prescribed antidepressants than men.
The scale of these increases, over a comparatively short period of time, is nothing short of breathtaking.
So what's behind the shift and why are more women suffering from depression? The German researchers for the European study blame one factor: modern life. A 2003 study in boom-time Ireland showed one in three women living in Dublin was suffering from depression, a rate which was five times higher than their rural counterparts.
One of the authors of that study, Dr Patricia Casey, cited the breakdown of social support in our cities as one of the causes. She said that many women living in the capital don't know their neighbours so they have no practical support when something goes wrong and they may also have no-one to confide in.
Professor Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, who in charge of the more recent research, says the pressure of trying to cope with having a family and pursuing a career is leaving women with a 'tremendous burden'. But is it really so simple? Go back 40 years and women were hardly basking in leisure. They were more likely to be poor and were also the victims of demoralisingly blatant sex discrimination.
Meanwhile, modern-day men are currently suffering unprecedented job losses, their role as the head of the family is disappearing and their lives are also getting more hectic and harried. But men's depression rates have not climbed nearly so high.
In fact, one of the main reasons behind this astonishing rise in antidepressant use is that women are increasingly being parked on these powerful and potentially dangerous drugs for want of anything else to help them with the emotional distress that led them to visit their doctor.
This was echoed in a poll of 2,000 women released in June by the women's campaign group Platform 51 (formerly the Young Women's Christian Association, YWCA).
ONE in three of the women polled had taken antidepressants during her lifetime. More than half of these were not offered any alternatives to drugs. And a quarter were left on the drugs for more than a year without having their prescriptions reviewed.
This is despite the fact that guidelines from one British-based health watchdog say that 'talking therapies' such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) should be the first-line therapy for patients with mild depression. Treatment for patients who have moderate to severe depression should be a combination of talking therapy and antidepressants.
'Women and girls don't want to take these drugs for a long time and would prefer GPs to discuss with them why they are down in the first place,' says Platform 51's director of policy, Rebecca Gill. 'They can feel no one is interested in their story.'
But many GPs say they feel forced to prescribe women antidepressants because it is difficult to organise alternative support such as psychotherapy. …