Recent research by the NHS Information Centre has shown that since the onset of the credit crunch four years ago, cases of people being admitted to hospital for anxiety disorders and panic attacks rose by one third. Findings suggest that out-patient appointments could also be on the rise for the same conditions. Some experts believe the rise may be caused by individual’s worries about finances, job security and other concerns associated with the current economic situation.
The nation’s leading anxiety disorders charity, Anxiety UK, echoes these findings. “We saw a large increase in the amount of calls to our helpline within the first year of the credit crunch,” explains Anxiety UK CEO, Nicky Lidbetter. In the period of January to February 2009, calls to the telephone helpline doubled and emails requesting support were up 400%. Since then, requests for help have continued to rise, with a large number experiencing Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is a condition where the sufferer feels in a constant state of high anxiety and for many, this may have been sparked by economic worries.
In Anxiety UK’s recent membership survey, the charity found that 59 per cent of respondents are living with GAD. “GAD always ranks high amongst our members but we have noticed a trend in recent years where instances of GAD are on the rise,” explained Ms Lidbetter. In the last year alone, respondents with GAD have increased by nearly 10 per cent.
“We are concerned that a mental ill health epidemic is looming due to the financial worries currently facing the population,” says Ms Lidbetter. “Many people are experiencing anxiety for the first time because of the current financial climate, but for those who already suffer with anxiety, these times are extremely hard and the worry can be unbearable.”
Further research by The Co-operative Pharmacy has shown that the use of anti-depressants to treat anxiety has risen by 26 per cent since 2007, with a total of 49.8 million prescriptions being written in 2010/2011 (an increase of 10.3 million since 2007/2008). According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), anti-depressants should be prescribed only after lower intensity interventions, such as self-help, have been exhausted. But the number of anti-depressants prescribed (equating to one for every man woman and child in England, according to recent reports) shows that this may not always be the case, a fact which Anxiety UK knows only too well.
“Anxiety UK’s finding suggest that 60 per cent of our members were offered medication as a first step to help with their anxiety,” Ms Lidbetter revealed. While the government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme is going some way to adjust this figure by offering other interventions before or in conjunction with medication, Anxiety UK continues to experience increasing demand for services, particularly for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) via telephone and web-cam, access to peer mentoring and access to specialist helplines run by people with personal experience of anxiety.
Nicky Lidbetter continues, “Nobody struggling with anxiety need suffer alone. We can do so much to help. Financial problems can be both a cause and a result of anxiety, and I would urge anyone who fears that their money worries are causing them anxiety problems to get in touch for advice and support.”