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J Psychosom Res. 2009 Apr;66(4):335-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.10.008. Epub 2008 Dec 16.

Recognition and treatment of depression in primary care: effect of patients' presentation and frequency of consultation.

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Institute of Psychiatry, Bologna University, Bologna, Italy.



Primary care physicians (PCPs) are expected to recognize depression and appropriately prescribe antidepressants. This article investigated the single and combined effects of different patient presentations and frequency of visits on detection and antidepressant use.


Data came from an Italian nationwide survey on depressive disorders in primary care, involving 191 PCPs and 1910 attenders. Two hundred fifty patients suffering from major or subthreshold depression were compared in relation to their presentation (psychological, physical, and pain) and frequency of visits (low and high).


Recognition of depression significantly varied according to both presentation and frequency of visits. When compared to patients with psychological complaints, the odds ratios for nonrecognition of depression were higher for patients presenting with physical symptoms [2.3; 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.1-5.3] and with pain (4.1; 95% CI=1.6-9.9). Subjects who rarely attended the practice were 2.3 times less likely to receive a diagnosis of depression, compared with those having a high frequency of visits (95% CI=1.2-4.6). Similarly, patients presenting with physical symptoms or with pain and those with a low frequency of visits were rarely treated with antidepressants. The combination of physical or pain presentation with low frequency of visits further increased the risk for nonrecognition, which was sixfold that of the reference category.


Some subgroups of depressed patients still run a high risk of having their depression unrecognized by the PCP. Screening for depression among patients presenting with pain might be useful in order to improve recognition and management.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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