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Social science in the primary medical care setting

This is Science Today. Researchers these days are looking a lot into the treatment of mental health issues in primary care. Robin DiMatteo, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, says that's because most patients receive prescriptions for antidepressants in primary medical care settings.

DiMatteo:      Not that many patients are getting referrals to psychiatrists and so, primary care physicians are dealing with a lot of emotional distress - particularly, you can imagine as the economy is getting worse, more patients are depressed, more patients feeling hopeless, more patients having stress-related disorders.

Narrator:        DiMatteo, a leading authority on doctor-patient communication, has found that the vocal tone of physicians was actually rated as more problematic when their patients were feeling distressed.

DiMatteo:      One of the things we're looking at now is trying to determine whether the doctor's own stress is a mediator of this and there is a little bit of evidence to suggest that - that that actually can get translated to the treatment of even their most vulnerable patients through very subtle elements of communication.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin