By using large scale data from GPs in Wales, researchers established that prescribing guidelines for teenagers with mental health problems were not always being followed. These findings have been used as the basis for ongoing work to provide better support for GPs to deliver the best treatment for teenagers.

Why was this work needed?

One in ten children and young people experiences some kind of mental health problem. Establishing the best treatments for this age group can be difficult. This research was conducted in response to concerns that mental health problems were being under-diagnosed, but also that certain medications were being over-prescribed in this group.

What happened?

The SAIL Databank is a Welsh database that allows data to be linked in a confidential and secure way. In this project, researchers used SAIL to analyse information relating to over 300,000 children and young people (aged between 6 and 18), identifying those who showed symptoms of anxiety and depression and looking for any patterns in the medication they were prescribed.

What were the benefits?

The research found that 15 to 18 year olds were being prescribed certain medications more often than they should be, according to current guidelines. The research group is now working with the Welsh Government to improve support given to GPs in how they deal with treating child and adolescent mental health problems.

What type of data was involved?

This study used the Welsh Demographic Service and the General Practice Database, both of which are available through SAIL.

Data was linked within the secure SAIL environment and was de-personalised before being used in this research.

Who funded and collaborated on this work?

This study was funded by the Health and Care Research Wales and by the Welsh Government. It was also supported by the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research.

Where can I go for more information?

Recent trends in primary-care antidepressant prescribing to children and young people: an e-cohort study

Recent trends in the incidence of anxiety and prescription of anxiolytics and hypnotics in children and young people: An e-cohort study

Using Data to Study and Improve the Treatment of Teenage Anxiety