The vast majority of GPs – some 85% – report that they have seen a significant increase in the number of new patients presenting with stress, anxiety or depression in the last five years, according a poll of 250 GPs carried out by life insurance company Royal London.
GPs said that one in four (23%) of these patients make an appointment for symptoms they believe are unrelated to mental health – although the underlying cause of their symptoms is stress, anxiety or depression.
More than one in four (27%) of these patients are declared unfit to work – but GPs added one in six (16%) asked them to conceal details of their diagnosis on their fit note because of the stigma associated with mental health problems.
A supporting survey of over 2,000 UK adults found that almost half (45%) of patients with stress, anxiety or depression decided to delay visiting their GP for fear their symptoms were not serious enough.
Almost a third (29%) said they did not think their GP could help, with 41% instead turning to self-help methods such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques or exercise.
The top three causes for their condition were reported as work (34%), loneliness or isolation (32%) and strains on relationships with friends or family (30%).
Jennifer Gilchrist, proposition lead at Royal London said: ‘The survey results show that we still need to raise awareness of the number of people who suffer from stress, anxiety or depression and that people need to be encouraged to visit their GP sooner to seek help and support. People can also seek help from specialist mental health charities such as Mind.’