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Personality can hamper a physician's assessment of depression
Date:9/24/2008

aperwork corresponding to their false identities. The meetings with the physicians were taped using concealed tape recorders. The physicians, who were not informed when an actor was a patient, were internal and family medicine specialists in Rochester. In all, 46 physicians with 88 patient visits were studied.

Physicians in the study were characterized along three dimensions: dutifulness, vulnerability and openness to feelings. Dutiful suggests conscientiousness, the tendency to follow through reliably, as in paying bills on time. Vulnerability means anxiousness, the tendency to feel unsettled, moody and under stress. Openness indicates empathy, the capacity to understand the feelings of others.

"Doctors high in dutifulness are more likely to document a depression diagnosis but ask fewer questions about depression. They are no more (or less) likely to ask about suicide than their less dutiful peers," the researchers report. "Concern with time-economy could explain why, despite their apparent level of vigilance, they ask fewer questions about depression and are not more likely to inquire about suicide, arguably the most important symptom of depression. Perhaps they believe that asking about suicide will extend the office visit."

Physicians high in vulnerability were also more likely to document a depression diagnosis.

The research is part of a series of studies of the physician-patient relationship. In one study, Duberstein and other researchers showed that primary care physicians with high levels of openness and average, as opposed to extremely high, levels of conscientiousness are more likely to be trusted by patients. An article published earlier this year reported that more dutiful physicians engaged in greater exploration of a patient's psychosocial and life circumstances, but involved the patient less in treatment discussions. Physicians with more anxious vulnerability also involved the patient less.


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Contact: Michael Wentzel
Michael_Wentzel@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-1309
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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