Hands and feet

September 2009

Research

Diagnosis of male depression

Does general practitioner gender play a part?

Volume 38, No.9, September 2009 Pages 743-746

Zaza Lyons

Aleksandar Janca

Background

Depression is a common illness often underdetected in general practice. Underdetection is more common in male patients compared with females. General practitioner gender and difficulties in communicating with male patients may play a role. This study aimed to determine if GPs found depression harder to diagnose in male patients compared with female patients, identify difficulties in diagnosis, and identify any GP gender differences in the diagnostic process.

Methods

A cross sectional survey mailed to Western Australia GPs.

Results

Most respondents (64%) reported that diagnosing depression in men was harder compared with women, 73% of female GPs compared with 58% of males (p=<0.005). Communication issues and infrequent surgery attendance by male patients were cited as the main difficulties.

Discussion

Most GPs found diagnosing depression in men difficult, particularly female GPs. There is a need for GPs to communicate more effectively with male patients to improve the diagnosis of depression.

In Australia, depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions by general practitioners. Estimates for 2006–2007 show that 10.4% of all GP encounters were for a mental health related cause, amounting to 10.7 million mental health encounters, with depression reported as the most frequently managed condition (34%).1 The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing found that the overall 12 month prevalence of affective disorders in the Australian population was 6.2%. While depression affects both men and women, the prevalence rate for men was lower than for women, 5.3% compared with 7.1%.2 A lower prevalence of depression in men has also been reported in surveys from the United States of America,3 the United Kingdom,4 and The Netherlands.5

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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