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  • 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020
  • Project No: 479
  • Funding round: FR19


The antidepressant drugs prescribed to adolescents for depression and anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.  Recently, SSRI antidepressant prescribing has been increasing in adolescents in the UK.  This increase may be because more young people are having problems like depression and anxiety, or because they are more likely to see their doctors about these issues.  It could also be because it is getting harder to get appointments for other treatments, such as talking therapies.  Different things like weather and seasons, or stressful periods associated with their education, for example starting a new school year or exams, could affect young people’s mental health.  So far, there have been few studies examining seasonal patterns of these issues in adolescents, and there is no clear pattern when adults have been studied. 


We want to investigate whether adolescents and young adults have different patterns over the year of antidepressant prescriptions, depression, anxiety, and self-harm.


  • We will use information about antidepressant prescribing, depression, anxiety and self-harm events between 2006 and 2017 from English primary care electronic health records with identifying information removed.
  • We will look at monthly patterns in SSRI antidepressants prescriptions and the three SSRI drugs that are most commonly prescribed in this age group (fluoxetine, sertraline and citalopram).
  • We will also look at monthly patterns in records of depression, anxiety and self-harm.
  • We will examine three age groups: 14-18 years, 19-23 years and 24-28 years.  This will mean we can see if young people in their final years at school have different patterns to young adults.


If we find these mental health issues are more common in particular months, GPs may be able to provide early support to those in need.  More resources can be put in place within GP practices and other settings at these times.


Rebecca Joseph, Carol Coupland, Julia Hippisley-Cox


Amount awarded: £12 140.00

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Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.