Major depression symptoms in primary care and psychiatric care settings: A cross-sectional analysis

Bradley N. Gaynes, A. John Rush, Madhukar H. Trivedi, Stephen R. Wisniewski, G. K. Balasubramani, Donald C. Spencer, Timothy Petersen, Michael Klinkman, Diane Warden, Linda Nicholas, Maurizio Fava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: We undertook a study to confirm and extend preliminary findings that participants with major depressive disorder (MDD) in primary care and specialty care settings have with equivalent degrees of depression severity and an indistinguishable constellation of symptoms. METHODS: Baseline data were collected for a distinct validation cohort of 2,541 participants (42% primary care) from 14 US regional centers comprised of 41 clinic sites (18 primary care, 23 specialty care). Participants met broadly inclusive eligibility criteria requiring a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, diagnosis of MDD and a minimum depressive symptom score on the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. The main outcome measures were the 30-item Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology - Clinician Rated and the Psychiatric Diagnostic Screening Questionnaire. RESULTS: Primary care and specialty care participants had identical levels of moderately severe depression and identical distributions of depressive severity scores. Both primary care and specialty care participants showed considerable suicide risk, with specialty care participants even more likely to report prior suicide attempts. Core depressive symptoms or concurrent psychiatric disorders were not substantially different between settings. One half of participants in each setting had an anxiety disorder (48.6% primary care vs 51.6% specialty care, P = .143), with social phobia being the most common (25.3% primary care vs 32.1% specialty care, P = .002). CONCLUSIONS: For outpatients with nonpsychotic MDD, depressive symptoms and severity vary little between primary care and specialty care settings. In this large, broadly inclusive US sample, the risk factors for chronic and recurrent depressive illness were frequently present, highlighting a clear risk for treatment resistance and the need for aggressive management strategies in both settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-134
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of family medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Depression
  • Primary care
  • Psychiatric comorbidity
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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