Talking about depression during interactions with GPs: a qualitative study exploring older people’s accounts of their depression narratives

Gordon, Isabel, Ling, Jonathan, Robinson, Louise, Hayes, Catherine and Crosland, Ann (2018) Talking about depression during interactions with GPs: a qualitative study exploring older people’s accounts of their depression narratives. BMC Family Practice, 19 (173).

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Background: Older people can struggle with revealing their depression to GPs and verbalising preferences regarding its management. This contributes to problems for GPs in both detecting and managing depression in primary care. The aim of this study was to explore older people’s accounts of how they talk about depression and possible symptoms to improve communication about depression when seeing GPs.

Methods: Adopting a qualitative Interpretivist methodological approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted by IG based on the principles of grounded theory and situational analysis. GPs working in north east England recruited patients aged over 65 with depression. Data analysis was carried out with a process of constant comparison, and categories were developed via open and axial coding and situational maps. There were three levels of analysis; the first developed open codes which informed the second level of analysis where the typology was developed from axial codes. The typology derived from second level analysis only is presented here as older people’s views are rarely reported in isolation.

Results: From the sixteen interviews with older people, it was evident that there were differences in how they understood and accepted their depression and that this influenced what they shared or withheld in their narratives. A typology showing three categories of older people was identified: those who appeared to talk about their depression freely yet struggled to accept aspects of it (Superficial Accepter), those who consolidated their ideas about depression aloud (Striving to Understand) and those who shared minimal detail about their depression and viewed it as part of them rather than a treatable condition (Unable to Articulate). The central finding was that older people’s acceptance and understanding of their depression guided their depression narratives.

Conclusions: This study identified differences between older people in ways they understand, accept and share their depression. Recognising that their depression narratives can change and listening for patterns in what older people share or withhold may help GPs in facilitating communication to better understand the patient when they need to implement alternative approaches to patient management.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: BMC Family Practice
Publisher: BMC
ISSN: 1471-2296
Departments: Professional Services > Research Office & Graduate School (ROGS)
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2019 14:40
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 20:46


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