Primary care physicians and psychiatrists approaches to treating mild depression

Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 05/25/2012

Psychiatrists treat mild depression more aggressively than primary care physicians. Both are inclined to use antidepressants for patients with mild depression.


  • The authors surveyed a national sample of US PCPs and psychiatrists using a vignette of a 52-year-old man with depressive symptoms not meeting Major Depressive Episode criteria.
  • Physicians were asked how likely they were to recommend an antidepressant counseling, combined medication, and counseling or to make a psychiatric referral.


  • Response rate was 896/1427 PCPs and 312/487 for psychiatrists.
  • Compared with PCPs, psychiatrists were more likely to recommend an antidepressant (70% vs. 56%), counseling (86% vs. 54%), or the combination of medication and counseling (61% vs. 30%).
  • More psychiatrists (44%) than PCPs (15%) were ‘very likely’ to promote psychiatric referral.
  • PCPs who frequently attended religious services were less likely (than infrequent attenders) to refer the patient to a psychiatrist (12% vs. 18%); and more likely to recommend increased involvement in meaningful relationships/activities (50% vs. 41%) and religious community (33% vs. 17%).

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