High levels of depression are costing the UK almost £11bn a year in lost earnings, in demands on the health service and in prescribing drugs to tackle the problem.
Last night, charities said the economic turmoil, increased job insecurity and mounting unemployment have contributed to growing levels of depression over the past three years.
According to research by the House of Commons, people unable to work because of depression lose £8.97bn of potential earnings per year. The loss of earnings from people who commit suicide is estimated at a further £1.47bn.
The breakdown of the statistics suggested that women were nearly four times more likely than men to approach their doctor with the problem.
The NHS Information Centre said 43.4 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in 2010-11, a rise of 28% over three years. The use of anti-anxiety medication rose by 8% over the same period, with Diazepam the most widely prescribed drug. Sleeping pill prescriptions went up by 3% to 10.2 million.