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J Community Health. 1992 Jun;17(3):143-52.

Recognition of depression by internal medicine residents.

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  • 1Division of Community Health Sciences, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Rootstown 44272.


We studied the ability of internal medicine residents to recognize depressive symptoms in a population of lower socio-economic primary care patients. Four hundred twenty patients completed the short form of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Simultaneously, the resident caring for the patient estimated the degree of depression for each patient. One-fourth of the patients scored at or above the moderately depressed level on the BDI and the residents rated 23 percent of their patients as at least moderately depressed. However, the accuracy of the residents' assessment of his or her individual patient was poor (correlation = 0.42, sensitivity = 0.46, specificity = 0.84). Patients with a prior history of psychiatric disorder scored higher on the BDI and were given higher ratings of depression. No other pre-existing medical condition was significantly associated with a higher or lower BDI score. The amount of alcohol consumed and the amount smoked, were both associated with higher BDI scores. Residents varied in their sensitivity to their patients' BDI scores. Some showed high agreement with BDI scores, others low. There were no specific resident characteristics (e.g. year of training, resident gender) that could explain this variability. Patients with a history of depression were given lower resident ratings compared to other patients and patients with a history of depression were given lower resident ratings than predicted by their BDI scores. Residents' ability to accurately diagnose and treat depression in the underprivileged primary care patient can be facilitated by the institution of depression screening in the ambulatory clinic.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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