Screening for undetected mental disorders in high utilizers of primary care services

J Gen Intern Med. 1999 Jul;14(7):425-31. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1999.07238.x.


Objective: To define the prevalence and detection rates of mental disorders among high utilizers as compared with typical utilizers, and to examine the effect of case-mix adjustment on these parameters.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: General internal medicine outpatient clinic associated with an urban, academic medical center.

Patients: From patients attending a general medicine clinic, 304 were selected randomly in three utilization groups, defined by number of clinic visits: (1) high utilizers; (2) case-mix adjusted high utilizers; and (3) typical utilizers (control patients).

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: The presence of any mental disorder was ascertained by the PRIME-MD screening instrument. Chart review on all patients was performed to ascertain mental disorders detected by primary care physicians. The prevalence of mood disorders was markedly higher in high utilizers (29%) than in adjusted high utilizers (15%) or controls (10%) (p <.001). Anxiety disorders were slightly, but not statistically, more prevalent in the group adjusted for case mix (16%) than in other high utilizers (12%) or controls (9%). Alcoholism was significantly more prevalent in controls (12%) than in adjusted (6%) or other high utilizers (3%) (p <.03). The discrepancy in detection rates between PRIME-MD and chart review for any mental disorder was less for high utilizers (37% vs 31%) as compared with adjusted high utilizers (31% vs 11%) or controls (24% vs 8%).

Conclusions: Mood disorders are associated with a high overall burden of illness, while anxiety disorders are more predominant among outliers after case-mix adjustment. Detection rates differ substantially by utilization pattern. Screening efforts can be more appropriately targeted with knowledge of these patterns.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnosis-Related Groups
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reproducibility of Results