Variation in prescribing for anxiety and depression: a reflection of health inequalities, cultural differences or variations in access to care?

Int J Equity Health. 2006 May 18;5:4. doi: 10.1186/1475-9276-5-4.


Background: There are large variations in mental health prescribing in UK populations. However the underlying reasons for these differences, which may be related to differences in prevalence, cultural expectations or practical difficulties in access to treatment, remain uncertain.

Methods: Linear modelling was used to investigate whether population characteristics or access to primary care account for variations in mental health prescribing across 39 deprived neighbourhoods.

Results: The proportion of sampled respondents whose first language was not English and the ratio of general practitioners to population explained 61% of variation. Deprivation and mental health status were not significant predictors of prescribing in these relatively deprived communities.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that mental health prescribing, within deprived areas, as well as reflecting cultural and social differences in prescribing, may also be a proxy measure of access to care.