In brief: Antidepressants and empathy

In brief

Antidepressants and empathy

A study of depression treatment by family doctors has found that patients are more likely to improve if their doctors are good communicators — but only if they also prescribe adequate medication.

More than 200 depressed patients of 18 general practitioners participated. Researchers questioned them after a visit to the doctor, assessing the doctor's empathy and support by a series of questions about personal interest in the patient, listening carefully, asking useful questions, showing an understanding of the patient's feelings, and showing appreciation of the patient's efforts to cope. Physicians were rated on a 10-point scale for each answer.

Three months after treatment began and again a year later, the communication skills of doctors were correlated with the outcome of the patient's depression — how long it lasted, how severe the symptoms were, and how much disability it caused.

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