OBJECTIVES: To determine gender differences in the frequency and manifestation of depression in primary care. STUDY DESIGN: PRIME-MD, a new assessment tool, was tested in 1000 patients as an aid to diagnose depression in primary care patients. Answers to a self-assessment questionnaire completed by patients determined whether physicians administered the mood module in the Clinician Evaluation Guide to diagnose depression. Functional status was assessed with the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form (SF-20). RESULTS: More women than men were diagnosed as having a mood disorder (31% vs 19%; p < 0.01), and an antidepressant was newly prescribed only for women (p < 0.001). There were no gender differences in physician ratings of patients' health, but women rated their health significantly more poorly than did men. Similarly, functional impairment scores were significantly lower in women than in men. CONCLUSIONS: Women are much more likely than men to have depressive disorders, and when these disorders are diagnosed, to receive a prescription for antidepressant medication. Further research is needed to determine why women seem to suffer disproportionately from symptoms of depression and signs of functional impairment.
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