Primary care patients with depression are less accepting of treatment than those seen by mental health specialists

J Gen Intern Med. 2003 Dec;18(12):991-1000. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2003.21060.x.


Objective: This study examined whether depressed patients treated exclusively in primary care report less need for care and less acceptability of treatment options than those depressed patients treated in the specialty mental health setting after up to 6 months of treatment.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Forty-five community primary care practices.

Participants: A total of 881 persons with major depression who had received mental health services in the previous 6 months and who enrolled in 3 of the 4 Quality Improvement for Depression Collaboration Studies.

Measurements and results: Patients were categorized into 1 of 2 groups: 1) having received mental health services exclusively from a primary care provider (45%), or 2) having received any services from a mental health specialist (55%) in the previous 6 months. Compared with patients who received care from mental health specialists, patients who received mental health services exclusively from primary care providers had 2.7-fold the odds (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.6 to 4.4) of reporting that no treatment was definitely acceptable and had 2.4-fold the odds (95% CI, 1.5 to 3.9) of reporting that evidence-based treatment options (antidepressant medication) were definitely not acceptable. These results were adjusted for demographic, social/behavioral, depression severity, and economic factors using multiple logistic regression analysis.

Conclusions: Patients with depression treated exclusively by primary care providers have attitudes and beliefs more averse to care than those seen by mental health specialists. These differences in attitudes and beliefs may contribute to lower quality depression care observed in comparisons of primary care and specialty mental health providers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Community Mental Health Services*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States