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Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2006 Mar-Apr;28(2):119-24.

Depression and frequent attendance in elderly primary care patients.

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  • 1Institute of Psychiatry, Bologna University, Viale C. Pepoli 5, 40123 Bologna, Italy.



The aim of this study is to investigate the association between depression and frequent attendance in elderly primary care patients. Moreover, we compare the prevalence and clinical characteristics of frequent attenders (FAs) in the elderly and the nonelderly patients.


This nationwide, cross-sectional, two-phase epidemiological study involved 191 primary care physicians (PCPs) and 1896 patients aged 14 and over. We consider FAs those subjects attending PCP practice more than once a month in the last 6 months. Screening for psychiatric disorders was conducted by using the General Health Questionnaire-12. Subsequently, probable cases were assessed by the PCPs with the WHO ICD-10 Checklist for Depression.


Prevalence value of frequent attendance was 22.4% in the elderly. Depression was associated with frequent attendance in the elderly even after controlling for physical illness and unexplained somatic complaints. The risk for being an FA was more than twofold in the elderly than in the nonelderly (cOR=2.58; 95% confidence interval, 1.97-3.37). Considering subjects without medical illness, depression increased the risk of being an FA fivefold among the elderly and threefold among the nonelderly.


Frequent attendance in primary care is associated with depressive disorder in the elderly. Depression seems to play a more important role in determining frequent attendance in the elderly patients in respect to the nonelderly.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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