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Rates and predictors of anti-depressant prescribing in Northern Ireland 2011–2015: a data linkage study using the Administrative Data Research Centre (NI)

  • Mark Shevlin (a1), Michael Rosato (a2), Stephanie Boyle (a1), Daniel Boduszek (a3) and Jamie Murphy (a1)...

Research indicates that anti-depressant prescribing is higher in Northern Ireland (NI) than in the rest of the UK, and that socio-economic and area-level factors may contribute to this. The current study provides comprehensive population-based estimates of the prevalence of anti-depressant prescription prescribing in NI from 2011 to 2015, and examined the associations between socio-demographic, socio-economic, self-reported health and area-level factors and anti-depressant prescription.


Data were derived from the 2011 NI Census (N = 1 588 355) and the Enhanced Prescribing Database. Data linkage techniques were utilised through the Administrative Data Research Centre in NI. Prevalence rates were calculated and binary logistic analysis assessed the associations between contextual factors and anti-depressant prescription.


From 2011 to 2015, the percentages of the population in NI aged 16 or more receiving anti-depressant prescriptions were 12.3%, 12.9%, 13.4%, 13.9% and 14.3%, respectively, and over the 5-year period was 24.3%. The strongest predictors of anti-depressant prescription in the multivariate model specified were ‘very bad’ (OR = 4.02) or ‘Bad’ general health (OR = 3.98), and self-reported mental health problems (OR = 3.57). Other significant predictors included social renting (OR = 1.67) and unemployment (OR = 1.25). Protective factors included Catholic religious beliefs, other faith/philosophic beliefs and no faith/philosophic beliefs in comparison to reporting Protestant/other Christian religious beliefs (ORs = 0.78–0.91).


The prevalence of anti-depressant prescription in NI appears to be higher than the prevalence of depressive disorders, although this may not necessarily be attributable to over-prescribing as anti-depressants are also prescribed for conditions other than depression. Anti-depressant prescription was linked to several factors that represent socio-economic disadvantage.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Mark Shevlin, Ulster University, Magee Campus, Northland Road, Londonderry BT48 7JL, Northern Ireland, UK (Email:
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Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0790-9667
  • EISSN: 2051-6967
  • URL: /core/journals/irish-journal-of-psychological-medicine
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