Icelandic children under the ages of five are prescribed all forms of antipsychotics and anticonvulsant medicine around three times as often as their peers in the Nordic countries, according to a study by the Directorate of Health.
Most common prescriptions written out to children are the drugs Atarax and Stesolid, which are used to treat anxiety. Double the number of boys and four times the number of girls take opioids, most commonly Parkodin, which is not supposed to be used by children.
According to the report, what is especially eye opening is the number of children prescribed medicine for bipolar disorder and depression–neither of which is common in the other Nordic countries.
Even worse among elementary school students
Also among elementary school students the situation in Iceland stands in stark contrast to our neighbours. Around twenty times more children are prescribed antidepressants and thirteen times more boys and eighteen times more girls take bipolar medicine.
Long hours, little space
Speaking to RÚV, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, acting chairman of the Association for Kindergartens, said that the development is a worrying one. He claimed that the poor conditions in the nation’s kindergartens, where children are kept for 8-9 hours in smalls spaces, which is the reality of Icelandic kindergartens, was having an adverse impact on them.
“We have raised concerns about the situation of children in kindergartens,” Sigurður said. “The OECD report Starting Strong from 2017 showed that Icelandic children spend the most time in kindergartens.” Furthermore, he claimed that the time spent by children in kindergartens has increased in the past 6-7 years.
“I think we could prevent some of the medicine use by improving the situation of children and decreasing their numbers in each department,” he said.