Background: Although most depressed patients are treated in primary care, not all are recognized as such. This study explores the determinants of (non-)recognition of depression by general practitioners (GPs), with a focus on specific depression symptoms as possible determinants.
Methods: Recognition of depression by GPs was investigated in 484 primary care participants of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, with a DSM-IV diagnosis of depression in the past year. Recognition (yes/no) by GPs was based on medical file extractions (GP diagnosis of depressive symptoms/depressive disorder and/or use of antidepressants/referral to mental health care). Potential determinants of (non-)recognition (patient, depression, patient-GP interaction, and GP characteristics) were bivariately tested and variables with a p-value ≤0.2 entered into a multilevel multivariate model. Subgroup analysis was performed on 361 respondents with more reliable GP diagnosis data.
Results: 60.5% of patients were recognized by their GP. Patients who did not consult their GP for mental problems, and without comorbid anxiety disorder(s) were less often recognized. In the subgroup, where 68.7% was recognized, in addition to these, decreasing number of symptoms of depression and increased appetite were associated with decreased recognition. No GP characteristics were retained in the final model.
Limitations: Some data on recognition were collected retrospectively.
Conclusions: In addition to patients without a comorbid anxiety disorder or who did not consult their GP for mental problems, GPs less often recognized patients with fewer depression symptoms or with increased appetite. Recognition may be improved by informing/teaching GPs that also increased appetite can be a symptom of depression.
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