Psychosocial interest, medical interviews, and the recognition of depression

Arch Fam Med. 1994 Oct;3(10):899-907. doi: 10.1001/archfami.3.10.899.


Objectives: To measure primary care physicians' attitudes toward psychosocial issues, determine their relationship to the style of the medical interview, and assess whether attitudes and interview behaviors lead to correct diagnosis in patients with depression.

Design: Physicians were videotaped while interviewing four patients standardized with criteria symptoms of major depression. Physicians were unaware of the mental health focus of the study.

Setting: Patient examining rooms.

Participants: Physicians were eligible for recruitment if they were board certified or eligible in family practice or internal medicine, practiced primary care medicine, and were listed in regional directories. Standardized patients were recruited from the community.

Main outcome measures: Attitudes toward psychosocial issues (measured by the Physician Belief Scale), interview content (measured by review of the videotaped encounters), interview behaviors (measured by the Interaction Analysis System for Interview Evaluation), and a listing of depression in the differential diagnosis (determined by physician debriefing interviews).

Results: Forty-seven community-based practitioners participated. Forty-eight percent of interviews resulted in a diagnosis of depression. Physician Belief Scale scores were not significantly correlated with patient-centered interviewing, psychosocial questions, inquiry about depression symptoms, or a depression diagnosis. Longer interviews were more likely to result in a depression diagnosis.

Conclusions: High interest in psychosocial issues was not associated with patient-centered interviewing behaviors, questions about psychosocial or depression symptoms, or depression diagnoses. However, certain patient-centered interviewing behaviors, particularly those defined as "affective," did lead to the recognition of depression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Medical History Taking / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Simulation
  • Physician's Role*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Primary Health Care*