Primary care physicians' and psychiatrists' approaches to treating mild depression.

Journal Article


To measure how primary care physicians (PCPs) and psychiatrists treat mild depression.


We 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%).


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

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Lawrence, RE; Rasinski, KA; Yoon, JD; Meador, KG; Koenig, HG; Curlin, FA

Published Date

  • November 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 126 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 385 - 392

PubMed ID

  • 22616640

Pubmed Central ID

  • 22616640

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1600-0447

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0001-690X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2012.01887.x


  • eng