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Medicines Used in Mental Health – England – 2015/16 to 2020/21

Published 8 July 2021


Mental health is a key area of the NHS Long Term Plan published in 2019.

This publication aims to describe the prescribing of medicines used to improve mental health in England that are subsequently dispensed in the community. They do not include data on medicines used in secondary care, prisons, or issued by a private prescriber. 

This is an experimental Official Statistics release.

Key findings

  • There were 79.4 million antidepressant drug items prescribed to 7.87 million identified patients in 2020/21. The number of antidepressant items issued and the number of patients receiving antidepressant drugs increased for the fifth consecutive year. However, the rates of increase between 2019/20 and 2020/21 were less than in previous years.

  • In 2020/21, 4.05 million drugs for dementia items were prescribed to 275,000 patients. This was a decrease from 2019/20 following 4 consecutive years of increases in the number of items prescribed and the number of identified patients.

  • Of the 5 drug groups analysed in this publication, 4 had a larger proportion of identified patients that were female. The exception to this is CNS stimulants and drugs used for ADHD, which had almost 3 times as many males receiving prescribing than females.

  • All 5 groups of drugs were prescribed more often to patients living in more deprived areas of England. The largest disparity was for drugs used in psychoses and related disorders, which saw 163% more patients receiving prescribing from practices in the most deprived areas of the country compared to the least deprived.

  • In 2020/21, the most common age group to receive prescribing for 3 of the 5 drug groups was 50 to 54. The exceptions to this were CNS stimulants and drugs used for ADHD and drugs for dementia. The most popular age group for CNS stimulants and drugs used for ADHD was 10 to 14, while the most popular age group for drugs for dementia was 80 to 84.

Resource list

Medicines Used in Mental Health 2015/16 to 2020/21 - Statistical summary narrative (HTML)

Hypnotics and anxiolytics summary tables (Excel: 429KB)

Drugs used in psychoses and related disorders summary tables (Excel: 635KB)

Antidepressant drugs summary tables (Excel: 575KB)

CNS stimulants and drugs used for ADHD summary tables (Excel: 227KB)

Drugs for dementia summary tables (Excel: 180KB)

Pre-release access list (PDF: 125KB)

Background information and methodology note (PDF: 235KB)

User engagement strategy (PDF: 192KB)


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Responsible statistician: Matthew Wilson