What disability benefit trends tell us about psychiatric treatments and the economy

Joanna Moncrieff

Sickness and disability benefits are a hot topic in the United Kingdom at the moment. The government’s new system means that everyone’s benefit entitlement is being reviewed, and this is causing huge stress and anxiety for many people, including my patients. Some people have suggested that for this reason, I should not have published the recent paper on trends in sickness and disability benefits that I published with a colleague, Dr Viola (1, http://bjpo.rcpsych.org/content/2/1/18.) It was unethical and should not have been allowed, apparently (2, http://www.philipfthomas.com/index.php/blogs/28-un-critical-psychiatry), even though almost all the data is already in the public domain – on the Department for Work and Pensions’s website – in the name of transparency.


But we cannot simply ignore or suppress such a seismic shift in social trends. When I looked at benefit statistics in the 1990s, musculo-skeletal disorders (principally back pain) were overwhelmingly the biggest and fastest growing…

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