A study of physician preferences in the management of depression in the general medical setting

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1986 Jul;8(4):229-35. doi: 10.1016/0163-8343(86)90002-2.


Although more than 30% of ambulatory medical patients are depressed, little is known about how their depression is managed in the primary care setting. We surveyed 282 primary care physicians at two internal medicine and four family medicine programs. We asked these physicians to describe how they actually managed depression in their depressed medical patients and how they would manage ten hypothetical depressed medical patients. Demographic and attitudinal data were also obtained. Physicians reported that they utilized a wide variety of treatments for their depressed patients. They indicated that they would recommend counseling twice as many depressed patients as they would recommend medicating or referring. Over 30% of the variance in self-reported preferences to recommend particular treatments for depression was accounted for by physician characteristics. Prior experience with a treatment strategy was a significant factor in predicting a recommendation for future use of a treatment independent of other considerations such as endorsement of positive attitudes about the efficacy or benefits of a treatment. Prior experience was also more important than physician sociodemographics as a predictive variable. The clinical and educational implications of these findings for psychiatrists and primary care physicians are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Counseling
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion
  • Primary Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents