PURPOSE: To determine whether patient gender influences physicians' management of late-life major depression in older and younger elderly patients.
METHODS: In 1996-2001, physician subjects viewed a professionally produced videotape vignette portraying an elderly patient meeting diagnostic criteria for major depression, then answered interviewer-administered questions about differential diagnosis and treatment. Patient gender and other characteristics were systematically varied in different versions of the videotape, but clinical content was held constant. This was a stratified random sample of 243 internists and family physicians with Veterans Health Administration (VA) or non-VA ambulatory care practices in the Northeastern United States. Outcomes were whether physicians followed a guideline-recommended management approach: treating with antidepressants or mental health referral or both and seeing the patient for follow-up within 2 weeks.
RESULTS: Only 19% of physicians recommended treating depression (12% recommended antidepressants and 7% mental health referral), and 43% recommended follow-up within 2 weeks. Patient gender did not influence management recommendations in either younger old (67 year old) or older old (79 year old) patients (p > 0.12 for all comparisons).
CONCLUSIONS: Gender disparities previously documented in the management of major conditions are not seen for the management of depression, a potentially stigmatized condition that does not require resource-intense interventions.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/arlene_ash/95/