Determinants of consultation rate in patients with anxiety and depressive disorders in primary care

Fam Pract. 2002 Feb;19(1):23-8. doi: 10.1093/fampra/19.1.23.


Background: Although it is recognized that anxiety and depression are associated with frequent attendance in primary care, not all patients with these disorders attend frequently. The factors associated with general practice consultation in the important group of patients with anxiety and depressive disorders are not clear.

Objectives: Our aim was to determine prospectively the factors which predict consultation rate in a cohort of patients with anxiety and depressive disorders in primary care.

Methods: A total of 148 adult patients with a depressive, anxiety or panic disorder (DSM-III criteria) were studied prospectively for 6 months to determine the factors which predicted consultation rate during this time. Measures at baseline included: the Psychiatric Assessment Schedule, Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Life Events and Difficulties Schedule, Clinical Anxiety Scale, details of substance misuse and demographic data. The principal outcome measure was the number of consultations recorded in the GP records over the following 6 months. The variables associated with consultation rate were assessed by multiple regression analysis, with number of consultations as the dependent variable.

Results: The median consultation rate during the 6 months of the study was five (range: 1-22). Thirty per cent of the sample consulted seven or more times during the 6 months and 10% consulted 12 or more times. The regression analysis demonstrated that the following variables contributed to the best model: prior consultation rate, past psychiatric history, ongoing social difficulties, current level of alcohol consumption, total psychiatric symptom score and total anxiety score. These variables together accounted for 41% of the variance in consultation rate.

Conclusion: The detection and rigorous treatment of psychiatric disorder, the provision of social support and interventions for alcohol dependence may help to reduce the frequency of consultation of anxious and depressed patients in primary care. Future research to identify additional variables which explain the major part of the variance in consultation rate may pave the way for novel treatment approaches to the phenomenon of frequent attendance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors