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Original Research

Geriatric depression assessment by rural primary care physicians

Submitted: 23 February 2009
Revised: 19 May 2009
Published: 17 November 2009

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Author(s) : Glasser M, Vogels L, Gravdal J.

Citation: Glasser M, Vogels L, Gravdal J.  Geriatric depression assessment by rural primary care physicians . Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2009; 9: 1180. Available: (Accessed 21 October 2017)


Introduction:  Depression is the fourth leading cause of the global disease burden, and approximately one in four elderly people may suffer from depression or depressive symptoms. Depression in later life is generally regarded as highly treatable, but under-treatment is still common in this population, especially among those in rural areas where access to healthcare is often an issue. In this study rural primary care physicians’ practices, attitudes, barriers and perceived needs in the diagnosis and treatment of geriatric depression were described, and trends in care delivery examined.
Methods:  A survey was sent to 162 rural Illinois family physicians and general internists. The survey focused on current practices, attitudes and perceptions regarding geriatric depression, barriers to and needs for improvement in depression care and physician and practice characteristics.
Results:  Seventy-six physicians (47%) responded. The rural physicians indicated that over one-third of their patients aged 60 years and older were depressed. All reported routine screening for depression, with 24% using the Beck Depression Inventory. Overall, physicians expressed positive attitudes about their involvement in treating older depressed patients. However, 45% indicated a ‘gap’ between ideal and available care in their rural practices. Physicians with higher proportions of elderly patients in their panels were more likely to feel that more training in residency in geriatric care would be helpful in improving care, and that better availability of psychologists and counselors would be important for improvement of care for older, depressed patients.
Conclusions:  This study responds to recent calls to better understand how primary care physicians diagnose and treat depression in older adults. Generally, primary care physicians appear comfortable and prepared in depression diagnosis and management, but factors such as availability of appropriate care remain a challenge.

Key words:  depression, geriatric, primary care, USA.

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