The recognition of psychiatric morbidity on a medical oncology ward

J Psychosom Res. 1989;33(2):235-9. doi: 10.1016/0022-3999(89)90051-2.


The Generalised Health Questionnaire and Standardised Psychiatric Interview were used to determine psychiatric morbidity among 126 patients consecutively admitted to a medical oncology unit. Senior house officers and nurses also rated anxiety and depression. 36 (29%) patients were psychiatrically ill and affective disorders (29, 23%) predominated. Psychiatric morbidity was associated with feeling moderately or severely physically ill, and previous psychiatric illness, but not with awareness of having cancer or lack of a confiding tie. The General Health Questionnaire identified 79% of affective disorders at the cost of a 34% false positive rate. Doctors and nurses recognised only 49% of the depressed group; more of those with morbid anxiety (79%) were identified but only because they assumed most patients were anxious. Training in interviewing skills could substantially improve the identification and referral rates of patients with psychiatric morbidity.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Hospital Units
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Psychiatry
  • Referral and Consultation