Half of adults regularly take prescription drugs including antidepressants, statins, and high blood pressure pills, a major report has found.
A record 1.1 million prescriptions were handed out last year, a rise of almost 50 per cent in the last decade.
One in seven adults are on statins, a tenth are taking antidepressants and one in seven are on pills to control their blood pressure.
The NHS’s Health Survey for England also uncovered alarming rates of inactivity, heavy drinking, dieting and poor mental health.
The survey involved 8,011 adults and is carried out every year to represent a snapshot of the population’s health and wellbeing.
A record 1.1 million prescriptions were handed out last year, a rise of almost 50 per cent in the last decade, according to a major NHS report
Experts said the findings were a ‘wake-up call’ and blamed our high-pressured routines for making us unhealthy and miserable.
Doctors’ leaders were particularly worried about the high numbers of adults on prescription drugs, warning that many were ‘unnecessary.’
The rise in prescriptions has been blamed on the ageing population and the fact that more patients are succumbing to obesity-related illnesses.
But there is also concern that patients are being ‘over-medicalised’ and issued a prescription when they would be better off changing their lifestyles.
Many doctors believe exercise and weight loss is just as good for lowering cholesterol levels, blood pressure and even treating depression.
WHAT ELSE DID THE SURVEY FIND?
A quarter of adults admitted to watching four or more hours of TV on a weekday and a third aren’t taking enough exercise.
Some 30 per cent of men were drinking more than the recommended limit of 14 units a week, or seven pints.
Another 28 per cent of men and women had high blood pressure of whom almost half were not taking any treatment.
And almost a fifth of adults – 19 per cent – had a ‘probable’ mental health condition, up from 15 per cent in 2012.
The survey includes different questions every year covering a broad range of public health issues.
These latest results – from the survey carried out in 2016 – asked participants how often they used prescription medicines and which type.
A total of 48 per cent said they took at least one prescription drug in the last week not including contraception or nicotine patches.
Another 24 per cent had taken three or more prescription medicines that week and 10 per cent were on six or more.
The most commonly-used drugs were high blood pressure pills, statins, heartburn remedies, painkillers and antidepressants.
In fact 15 per cent of adults surveyed said they were taking a medication to control their blood pressure and 14 per cent were on statins.
Another 10 per cent were on antidepressants and 5 per cent were on medicines for either asthma, diabetes or to prevent blood clots, following a heart attack.
Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges – which represents 33,000 senior doctors – said: ‘On the face of it, these figures are really concerning.
Some 15 per cent of adults surveyed said they were taking a medication to control their blood pressure and 14 per cent were on statins
‘We have no way of knowing if these medicines are all really necessary, but we do know less is often more when it comes to some drugs.
‘Lifestyle changes such as taking up exercise can be just as effective at treating some illnesses such as mild depression.’
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘Although these figures might seem shocking to fit and well people, high prescription rates shouldn’t always be seen as a bad thing.
HOW THE POPULATION IS BECOMING FAT…
The survey also found that 66 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women were overweight or obese.
A total of 47 per cent of adults were trying to lose weight – regardless of their size – rising to 54 per cent of women.
But 42 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men were failing to meet the NHS’s recommended exercise levels of 150 minutes a week.
Another 30 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women were drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, the Government’s recommended limit.
‘A lot can change in ten years, including advances in medical research and evolution of clinical guidelines – and this means more medications are now available and recommended for patients, and can increasingly be used to prevent illness and to improve their health.
‘We also have a growing, ageing population in the UK so inevitably, more and more patients are living with multiple, long-term conditions, many of which need to be treated with medication.
‘Nevertheless, GPs do strive to explore non-pharmacological treatments, where appropriate, and we do encourage our patients to make lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact on their long-term health and wellbeing, without needing medication.’
Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, the Government agency for public health said: ‘We know that good physical and mental health is key to living a longer and healthier life.
‘That’s why we run campaigns such as Change4Life and Stoptober, which have already helped millions of people to eat healthier, be more active, cut down on alcohol and quit smoking.’