Doctors link abortions and alcohol abuse to recession
Published 14 August 2012
Doctors are concerned that the poor economic outlook is having a negative impact on the nation’s health.
In a survey of 300 GPs across the UK, more than three-quarters (76%) said they believed the economic downturn was making people in the UK unhealthier.
More than a third (34%) said they believed patients were putting off starting a family until their financial security improves, with 17% of doctors believing some patients had requested a termination due to financial concerns.
Worryingly, over three-quarters of the GPs (77%) felt there had been an increase in new cases of mental health disorders linked to the stresses of the economic climate.
They identified an increase in clinically definable anxiety, including OCD and panic disorders. Surprisingly, the doctors noted that the increase was taking place particularly amongst men rather than women, who are more commonly associated with anxiety disorders.
The doctors believed the mental health issues to be affecting mainly people aged between 36 to 45, and those who have kids and are married or living with their partner.
The majority of doctors (64%) said there had been an increase in patients drinking more alcohol, while almost half (46%) said they had seen an increase in serious alcohol abuse.
The doctors felt that depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse were increasing more among men than women.
Over a third of doctors (38%) noted that their more smoking-prone patients were giving up or cutting down on cigarettes to save money.
However, the recession has also caused more people to cut back on exercise, with nearly two-thirds of doctors (60%) saying they believed more patients were cancelling their sporting activities to save money or because they were coming under increased pressure at work.
The doctors also noted an increase in irritable bowel syndrome, especially among women, in the four years since the start of the recession.
Nearly two-thirds of the GPs surveyed (60%) reported working longer hours as a result of the increase in mental health disorders, with almost every doctor (96%) saying these cases required longer appointment times.
Fifty-nine per cent admitted they struggled to refer patients with mental health disorders to the services best placed to support them, with some saying it could take up to a year before patients are seen by a psychologist.
The research was carried out by Insight Research Group over the last six months.
Richard Kunzmann, research manager at Insight, said: “The GPs we surveyed felt that worries over financial security coupled with many people working longer hours have raised our stress levels.
“This has not only led to an increase in various mental health disorders but has also influenced other aspects of our life and wellbeing – from family planning through to levels of exercise.
“The middle class has been especially affected by the turbulence of the economic recession – amongst all of the conditions that were investigated, GPs routinely associated the increases they’ve seen with middle Britain.
“But these pressures are not limited to one demographic either – married women and single women were both as likely to request a termination due to financial concerns. It’s a particularly tough challenge for time-poor GPs who are faced with many patients who just need someone to talk to.
“Their only real option in the immediate term is to prescribe medication, which of course is rarely the solution.”
More news from the Society