Qualitative study of depression management in primary care: GP and patient goals, and the value of listening

Br J Gen Pract. 2007 Nov;57(544):872-9. doi: 10.3399/096016407782318026.


Background: Guidelines for depression management have been developed but little is known about GP and patient goals, which are likely to influence treatment offers, uptake, and adherence.

Aim: To identify issues of importance to GPs, patients, and patients' supporters regarding depression management. GP and patient goals for depression management became a focus of the study.

Design of study: Grounded theory-based qualitative study.

Setting: GPs were drawn from 28 practices. The majority of patients and supporters were recruited from 10 of these practices.

Method: Sixty-one patients (28 depressed, 18 previously depressed, 15 never depressed), 18 supporters, and 32 GPs were interviewed.

Results: GPs described encouraging patients to view depression as separate from the self and 'normal' sadness. Patients and supporters often questioned such boundaries, rejecting the notion of a medical cure and emphasising self-management. The majority of participants who were considering depression-management strategies wanted to 'get out' of their depression. However, a quarter did not see this as immediately relevant or achievable. They focused on getting by from day to day, which had the potential to clash with GP priorities. GP frustration and uncertainty could occur when depression was resistant to cure. Participants identified the importance of GPs listening to patients, but often felt that this did not happen.

Conclusion: Physicians need greater awareness of the extent to which their goals for the management of depression are perceived as relevant or achievable by patients. Future research should explore methods of negotiating agreed strategies for management.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations*