The University of Leicester carried out a review of 41 studies involving 50,000 patients, which showed that depression had been misdiagnosed or missed altogether in substantial numbers.
In an average urban surgery, with a GP seeing 100 cases over two days, around 20 of these cases would have depression. However, the GP would only correctly diagnose half, around 10. Out of the other 80 cases who weren’t suffering from depression, the GP would incorrectly diagnose around 15 as having depression.
The researchers did say that GPs were getting better at picking up depression, and blamed a short consultation time for misdiagnosis. They suggested that if a consultation was split over two appointments the GPs accuracy would rise by 90%.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: “While a high temperature is recognisable pretty quickly, mental well being and mental distress are much harder to judge in a one-off meeting.”
“Spending longer with a patient, or seeing them over a number of appointments, could help improve diagnosing common mental health problems.”