Prescriptions for drugs such as antidepressants and sleeping pills have jumped 20% in just three years, new figures show, as it emerged depression is costing the country almost £11 billion a year.
Experts believe the stress of recent years, including the economic turmoil, means more people are experiencing mental health problems.
Data from the NHS Information Centre shows antidepressant use alone rose 28% between 2007/08 and 2010/11 in England.
Just under 34 million prescriptions were dispensed for antidepressants in 2007/08, rising to 43.4 million in 2010/11.
The use of anti-anxiety drugs rose from just over six million to 6.5 million in the same period (an 8% jump), while prescriptions for sleeping pills rose 3% from around 9.9 million to 10.2 million.
Meanwhile, prescriptions for barbiturates to promote sleep and reduce anxiety have dropped 51% from just over 22,000 to just under 11,000.
Across all these groups of drugs, there was a 20% rise in prescription items dispensed between 2007/08 and 2010/11.
Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat MP who commissioned the research, said: “Failure to tackle depression hurts us all. It makes a misery of the lives of sufferers, costs the NHS in terms of time and medication and hampers business by forcing some people out of work.”