Objective: To determine whether the chronically or recurrently depressed patients of family practice and internal medicine physicians differed in the proportion reporting that their primary care physician asked them about depression symptoms.
Design: A cross-sectional observational study of chronically or recurrently depressed survey respondents who identified a family practice or internal medicine physician as their primary care provider.
Setting: A large not-for-profit group-model health maintenance organization in the northwestern United States, with a population representative of its service area.
Patients: Health maintenance organization members (n= 1161) with ongoing or recurring depression or dysthymia who responded to a 1993 survey and who identified either a family practice or internal medicine physician as their primary care provider.
Main outcome measure: Patients' self-report of their primary care physician asking them: (1) whether they had been feeling sad, blue, or depressed; (2) to fill out a questionnaire about their mood or feelings; and (3) whether they had been thinking about death or suicide.
Results: Chronically or recurrently depressed patients of family practice physicians were more likely to report that their physician asked them about depressive symptoms than were patients of internal medicine physicians (34.0% vs 27.3%) (P=.02). This finding persisted in a multivariate analysis.
Conclusion: Family practice physicians may be more attentive to depressive disorders than internal medicine physicians.