This site is intended for health professionals only

Survey: physical health masks mental state

Nurses find it 'significantly' more complex to diagnose depression in patients post-myocardial infraction (heart attack), a survey shows.

The national survey of GP and nurse's attitudes and beliefs towards depression after myocardial infarction, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, surveyed a total of 813 practitioners - 106 GPs and 707 nurses.

It showed all primary care practitioners underestimated the prevalence of depression in the post-myocardial infraction population.

While diagnosing depression was perceived as complex by both GPs and nurses, it was deemed to be significantly more so by nurses, according to the study.

One of the authors of the report, Professor Richard Gray of the University of East Anglia, told Nursing In Practice anecdotal evidence suggests nurses do not like to ask patients about their mood and tend to avoid or gloss over their mental state.

Training was found to have a 'significant effect' on a practitioner's ability to accurately estimate how common depression was in post-myocardial infraction.

"If you could create a pill that would aid heart attack recovery - it would be hailed as amazing," said Gray.

"But there is already a pill that does that - antidepressants. Nurses and GPs are blinded to the benefits antidepressants provides to post-myocardial infraction patients and are too focused on the physical state."

Gray also told NIP the study shows how necessary it is for a nurse's skill set to straddle both the physical and mental states of patients as physical health can sometimes mask mental health. By just focusing on one aspect of a patient's care, "the patient is not receiving the service they deserve".

Journal of Clinical Nursing