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

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Dame Louise Robinson



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


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.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.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.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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gordon I, Ling J, Robinson L, Hayes C, Crosland A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Family Practice

Year: 2018

Volume: 19

Online publication date: 03/11/2018

Acceptance date: 15/10/2018

Date deposited: 09/11/2018

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2296

Publisher: BioMed Central


DOI: 10.1186/s12875-018-0857-8


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Funder referenceFunder name
MR/K02325X/1Medical Research Council (MRC)