No evidence that family physicians have a lower success rate treating depression

June 19, 2003

Statement attributable to
Dr. Ronald Kessler, Ph.D.
Department of Health Care Policy
Harvard Medical School

"I want to correct an error in statements I made to the press regarding the results of a June 16 Journal of American Medical Association article published by my colleagues and myself titled 'The Epidemiology of Major Depressive Disorder.'

The correction refers to my statements characterizing 'family doctors' as providing inadequate treatment of depression. These statements should have referred to 'general medical doctors,' which include all physicians other than psychiatrists (e.g., general practitioners, internists, family physicians, obstetrician-gynecologists, and other medical specialists), rather than to 'family physicians.' There is no evidence in our study that family physicians have a lower rate of successfully treating depression than other general medical doctors. I regret having unfairly singled out family medicine specialists in my comments.

Although our study cites no evidence on this matter, I would also note that a 1999 article published in the Archives of Family Medicine found that 'the degree of formal evaluation [for depression] varied markedly by specialty, with family physicians being more likely to follow recommended guidelines for diagnostic evaluation.'"
Cynthia Stapp
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, ext. 5210

Harvard Medical School

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