Half of people are now taking prescription medication with rising use of antidepressants fuelling a 47 per cent increase in drugs dispensed over the last decade, a major report suggests.
The NHS survey of more than 8,000 adults shows one quarter of people on at least three drugs, with millions of pensioners on at least five types of medication.
The figures for England show one in seven people on statins and one in 10 on antidepressants.
NHS Digital said a total of 1.1 million prescriptions were dispensed last year - a rise of 47 per cent in a decade.
The average number of prescription items per head of population was 20, up from 15 in 2006.
In total, 48 per cent of people are now taking prescription drugs, the survey found.
Medication for high blood pressure was the most commonly prescribed item, followed by statins, indigestion remedies, painkillers and antidepressants.
Almost half of those over the age of 75 were found to be on at least five types of drugs, according to the figures from NHS Digital.
Its report said that across drug groups, the greatest rise last year was among antidepressants, with 3.7 million more items dispensed than in 2015, a six per cent rise.
The survey suggests rising numbers of people are suffering mental health problems, with a doubling in rates of distress among young men in the last five years. Overall, levels were found to be highest among women aged 16 to 24, with 28 per cent thought to be likely to be suffering from conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman 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.
“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,” she said.
The GP said she hoped the rising rate of anti-depressant prescribing reflected changes in society which meant people were more likely to seek help.
But she said she feared it also shone a light on the lack of access to other treatments, such as talking therapies.
48 per cent taking medication
The findings also show the increasing grip of couch potato lifestyles, with the average man and woman spending more time sitting down at weekends than they do in the working week.
While 66 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women are overweight or obese, women were more likely to be on a diet, the survey found.
The polls show 54 per cent of women trying to lose weight - along with 39 per cent of men.
Prescriptions increase since 2006
In total 19 per cent of adults were thought to be suffering mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, compared with 15 per cent in 2012.
The assessment was made by asking participants about their levels of happiness, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and self-confidence. Figures were highest among women aged 16 to 24, with 28 per cent assessed as likely to be suffering mental health problems, a rise from 21 per cent in 2012.
Among men the same age, the figure went from 9 per cent to 16 per cent over the same period. And 18 per cent of men aged 25 to 34 were classed as likely to have mental health problems - double the nine per cent figure from 2012.
Most commonly prescribed medicines
The survey also reveals the country’s increasingly sedentary lifestyles. On average, men were found to be sitting down for 5.3 hours per day at weekends - even more than the 4.8 hours spent seated on weekdays.
Women were seated for an average of 4.9 hours a day at weekends, and 4.6 hours a day during the working week, the polls found.
Mental health by age and gender