, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 220-224

Psychological disorders and symptoms in primary care

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Abstract

Background Psychological symptoms that do not reach the threshold for formal diagnosis are disregarded in prevalence rates and are apparently assumed to be transient and of little clinical importance. Method Consecutive primary care attenders (n = 2379) were screened using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and a stratified random sample (n = 704) completed baseline structured diagnostic interview, disability assessment, and the 28-item version of the GHQ (GHQ-28). Subjects with significant psychiatric symptoms and a random sample of those without (n = 263) were evaluated with the same measures 12 months later. Results While 25 % of the baseline sample scored 5 or more on the GHQ-28, only 10 % met the ICD-10 criteria for one or more disorders. At baseline, caseness on either the GHQ or ICD-10 was associated with poor self-rated overall health, interviewer-rated occupational disability and with more disability days in prior month. At 12-month follow-up, being a case on the GHQ at baseline, but not on ICD-10, was associated with disability, poor health perception and high health service utilization. Conclusion Psychological symptoms that may not reach diagnostic threshold are associated with impaired functioning over 12 months. Individuals with such symptoms may be identified using self-report questionnaires for dimensional symptoms, such as the GHQ-28.

Accepted: 8 February 2002