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Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2006 Sep-Oct;28(5):379-86.

Influence of patient preference and primary care clinician proclivity for watchful waiting on receipt of depression treatment.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, P.O. Box 356560, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. <>



We examined whether patients' preference for watchful waiting and their primary care clinician's proclivity for watchful waiting were associated with decreased likelihood of receiving depression treatment.


In a quality improvement intervention for depression in primary care, patients with depressive symptoms were identified through screening in 46 clinics from June 1996 to March 1997. We analyzed baseline survey data completed by clinicians and patients using logistic regression models.


Of 1140 patients, 179 (16%) preferred watchful waiting over active treatment. After controlling for covariates, patients with depressive disorders who preferred watchful waiting were less likely to report use of antidepressants (OR=0.86, 95% CI=0.77-0.95). Among patients with depressive symptoms only, those who preferred watchful waiting were less likely to report antidepressant use (OR=0.84, 95% CI=0.76-0.93) or counseling (OR=0.84, 95% CI=0.77-0.95). Patients with less knowledge about depression were less likely to receive depression treatment. Clinician proclivity for watchful waiting was not associated with the likelihood that patients received depression treatment.


Patient preference for watchful waiting is associated with lower rates of some depression treatments, especially among patients with subsyndromal depression. Addressing patient preference for watchful waiting in primary care may include active symptom monitoring and patient education.

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