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Why are we all so depressed?

We enjoy a standard of living envied by 95 per cent of the world’s population.

We have better health and we are living longer than ever we did.

We have a social security safety net and advanced welfare system.

We have record numbers in work.

So why are we so depressed?

Official figures on medication to treat depression in Scotland show a sharp increase over the past decade, from 3.4 million items dispensed in 2003, to 5.2 million last year.

Almost 750,000 Scots received antidepressant medication in the year to March, a four per cent increase from the previous year - and a 53 per cent hike from a decade ago.

What’s making us so depressed?

The government? Devolution? Football? The weather? Or unrealistic expectations of what defines ‘happiness’?

Followers of ‘happiness economics’ tell us we are actually better off than conventional measures of GDP suggest.

But if anti-depression pill-popping is any guide, the ‘Happiness School’ of economics collapses. There’s been no recovery at all. We’re going backwards. We are more miserable than ever.

Are depression sufferers clogging up doctors’ surgeries? Not so. The number of depression-related GP appointments has halved in the last decade despite prescriptions soaring across the country. This has sparked fears that people are being parked on the medication without seeing a doctor.

So is this a story of greater depression – or lazy doctors?

Or are we truly finding modern life too difficult to manage, too disappointing, too full of expectations we can’t fulfil and which make us feel like failures?

Research by the Scottish Conservatives has revealed there were more than 850,000 consultations in relation to depression in 2003 with either a GP or practice nurse. That number fell to only 420,000 last year. But pill prescription has soared – despite the fact the SNP promised in 2007 to cut back on the number of pills being handed out.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw MSP says there is now “a glaring gulf” in these figures that requires urgent explanation.

Too right.

“If there are so many fewer GP consultations”, he asks, “where are the tens of thousands extra people suffering from depression getting their medication from? We cannot have a situation where people are being parked on this medication, and robbed of any chance of a full recovery.

“It is extremely worrying that so many people appear to be continuing on this medication without a face-to-face consultation with a GP or practice nurse.”

Suggestions, anyone?