Depression but not anxiety is a significant predictor of physicians' assessments of medical status in physically ill patients

Psychother Psychosom. 2000 May-Jun;69(3):147-54. doi: 10.1159/000012383.


Background: In a cross-sectional study we investigated associations between self-ratings of anxiety and depression, physical factors and physicians' assessments of patients' medical status.

Methods: Hospital inpatients (n = 574) consecutively admitted to internal medical wards were evaluated for the presence of anxiety and depressive symptoms using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Physicians were asked for their perception of psychiatric problems in their patients and for their assessments of patients' severity of illness, functional impairment and 1-year prognosis on 3-point ranking scales. Detailed somatic data including comorbidity and accepted risk factors were taken from the patients' records.

Results: Almost two thirds of all patients with abnormal HADS scores (65.2%) were not identified by their attending physicians as suffering from psychiatric problems. Using multiple-regression models, HADS scores for depression, but not for anxiety, proved to be an independent predictor for the clinicians' judgements of disease severity [exp(beta) = 1.08; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1. 03-1.13; p < 0.01] and functional impairment [exp(beta) = 1.11; 95% CI 1.05-1.17; p < 0.01]. The estimation of prognosis, however, was only related to physical predictors and showed no association with depressive symptoms or other psychosocial factors.

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that internists' ratings of severity of illness and functional impairment, but not prognosis, are associated with HADS depression scores, whereas there is no such association with self-rated anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Sick Role
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology