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Keywords:

  • mental health;
  • elderly;
  • screening;
  • quality of life;
  • service utilization;
  • Chinese

Abstract

Objective

Studies have shown that psychological problems in elderly patients are often unrecognised in primary care. The aim of this study was to investigate the quality of life and consultation rates of Chinese elderly patients with unrecognised psychological problems in primary care. The prevalence and risk factors of unrecognised psychological problems were also determined.

Methods

A cross-sectional study on consecutive patients aged ≥60 with no known psychological diseases were screened by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) when they consulted at two primary care clinics in Hong Kong. Data on socio-demographic characteristics, chronic morbidity, consultation rates, and health-related quality of life (HROQL) were collected. Multivariable regressions were used to determine the effect of a positive HADS score on HRQOL scores and consultation rates, and the risk factors of unrecognised psychological problems.

Results

One thousand eight hundred and fifty-four subjects (mean age 72.6 years and 52% male) were screened and the estimated prevalence of unrecognised psychological diseases was 23% (95% CI = 13.1–33.8%). A positive screening result was associated with poorer SF-36 HROQL scores and higher episodic consultation rates. An increased risk of unrecognised psychological problems was associated with the presence of more than two chronic diseases. Other risk factors included female gender, no formal education and having chronic pulmonary disease or heart disease. Living with a spouse increased the risk in elderly women.

Conclusions

Unrecognised psychological problems are common in Chinese elderly patients in primary care. They are clinically important because they impair quality of life and increase the utilization of consultations. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.