Do patient attitudes influence physician recognition of psychosocial problems in primary care?

J Fam Pract. 1987 Jul;25(1):53-9.


Research has yielded consistent evidence of high levels of psychiatric morbidity and psychosocial problems among primary care patients, and recent studies have focused on improving physician recognition. These studies are based on the unexamined assumption that patients want their physicians to treat psychosocial disorders; thus, underrecognition is examined by analyzing characteristics of physicians and medical settings. Patient characteristics, particularly attitudes about the appropriateness of seeking help for psychosocial problems in primary care, have not been examined in relationship to underrecognition. This study directly focuses on patient attitudes about appropriateness of requesting care for psychosocial difficulties, the extent to which patients discuss difficulties with their physicians, and the degree to which physician recognition is explained by these patient characteristics. The study sample of 883 adult patients was drawn from 23 primary care practices. Over 70 percent of patients find it appropriate to turn to their primary care physicians for help with emotional distress, family problems, life stress, behavioral problems, and sexual dysfunction; however, only one fifth to one third of patients who have experienced difficulties have discussed these problems with their primary care providers. Attitudes about appropriateness are significantly related to physician recognition of psychiatric symptoms and family difficulties but account for limited variance in levels of recognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • California
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychology, Social
  • Rural Population