The aims of the study were to: (a) assess the degree to which primary care physicians recognize psychiatric distress among an ethnically diverse primary care sample composed primarily of Asians and Hispanics; and (b) to investigate the relationship between patient and physician sociodemographic factors and overall diagnostic recognition of psychiatric distress. The study sample is comprised of 252 consecutively-selected patients and eleven primary care general internists from general medicine clinics in a large public ambulatory medical center. The measures used were the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale, a demographic questionnaire, and an acculturation scale; these measures were completed during interviews conducted by trained bilingual research assistants. Physicians completed a mental health treatment summary immediately after the patient's visit. Hierarchical logistic regression analyses were performed in order to examine: (1) the degree to which providers identified psychiatric distress and (2) overall diagnostic recognition among this sample in relation to demographic characteristics and degree of acculturation. As measured by the CES-D, almost one half (47.3%) of the Latino and 41.6% ofthe Asian patients had depressive symptoms indicative of psychiatric distress. In contrast, physicians identified 43.8% of Latino patients and only 23.6% of Asian patients as being psychiatrically distressed (p < .01). Physicians were more likely to classify Latinos and those with higher acculturation status as distressed (p < .01 and p < .05, respectively). Higher patient acculturation status was the only factor significantly associated with overall diagnostic recognition (p < .05), as measured by physician agreement with the CES-D. Being Asian and/or having low acculturation levels may put the patient at risk for non-detection of psychiatric distress. The high prevalence of distress lends support to initiating improved methods for screening and detection of depression among low income and racially diverse primary care patients.
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