Background: Depressive and anxiety disorders are common in general practice but not always treated adequately. Introducing stepped care might improve this. In this randomized trial we examined the effectiveness of such a stepped care model.
Methods: The study population consisted of primary care attendees aged 18-65 years with minor or major DSM-IV depressive and/or anxiety disorders, recruited through screening. We randomized 120 patients to either stepped care or care as usual. The stepped care program consisted of (1) watchful waiting, (2) guided self-help, (3) short face-to-face problem solving treatment and (4) pharmacotherapy and/or specialized mental health care. Patients were assessed at baseline and after 8, 16 and 24 weeks.
Results: Symptoms of depression and anxiety decreased significantly over time for both groups. However, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups (IDS: P = 0.35 and HADS: P = 0.64). The largest, but not significant, effect (d = -0.21) was found for anxiety on T3. In both groups approximately 48% of the patients were recovered from their DSM-IV diagnosis at the final 6 months assessment.
Conclusions: In summary we could not demonstrate that stepped care for depression and anxiety in general practice was more effective than care as usual. Possible reasons are discussed.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trails: ISRCTN17831610.