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Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research
Volume 2009, Article ID 475958, 4 pages
Research Article

A Randomised Controlled Experimental Study on the Influence of Patient Age on Medical Decisions in Respect to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression in the Elderly

1Research Group Psychosomatic Rehabilitation, Charité University Medicine, Lichterfelder Allee 55, Teltow, 14513 Berlin, Germany
2Department of Behavioral Medicine, Rehabilitation Center Seehof, Lichterfelder Allee 55, Teltow, 14513 Berlin, Germany

Received 17 August 2009; Revised 27 October 2009; Accepted 3 November 2009

Academic Editor: Moisés Bauer

Copyright © 2009 Michael Linden and Guido Kurtz. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. Elderly patients are often treated differently than younger patients, even when suffering from the same disorder. Objective. The study examines the influence of “patient age” on the perception of symptoms and conclusions of physicians in respect to diagnosis and treatment. Methods. In a randomised controlled experimental study on medical decision-making, 121 general practitioners were given two case vignettes which contained all the criteria for major depression according to ICD-10, but differed in respect to the age of the patient (39 or 81). Reaction time, diagnostic conclusions and therapeutic recommendations were assessed by computer. Results. Depression and anxiety were significantly seen as more probable in the young cases and dementia and physical illness in the old. In young age, psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy and referral to a specialist or inpatient treatment were significantly more recommended than in old age, for whom supportive counselling was significantly more recommended. The time needed for a decision was significantly longer in the older patients. Conclusion. Ageing stereotypes can also form medical illness concepts and have a significant influence on diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.