Causal explanations of distress and general practitioners' assessments of common mental disorder among Punjabi and English attendees
Bhui K., Bhugra D., Goldberg D.
Background. The literature on the primary care assessment of mental distress among Indian subcontinent origin patients suggests frequent presentations to general practitioner, but rarely for recognisable psychiatric disorders. This study investigates whether cultural variations in patients' causal explanatory models account for cultural variations in the assessment of non-psychotic mental disorders in primary care. Methods. In a two-phase survey, 272 Punjabi and 269 English subjects were screened. The second phase was completed by 209 and 180 subjects, respectively. Causal explanatory models were elicited as explanations of two vignette scenarios. One of these emphasised a somatic presentation and the other anxiety symptoms. Psychiatric disorder was assessed by GPs on a Likert scale and by a psychiatrist on the Clinical Interview Schedule. Results. Punjabis more commonly expressed medical/somatic and religious beliefs. General practitioners were more likely to assess any subject giving psychological explanations to vignette A and English subjects giving religious explanations to vignette B as having a significant psychiatric disorder. Where medical/somatic explanations of distress were most prevalent in response to the somatic vignette, psychological, religious and work explanations were less prevalent among Punjabis but not among English subjects. Causal explanations did not fully explain cultural differences in assessments. Conclusions. General practitioners' assessments and causal explanations are related and influenced by culture, but causal explanations do not fully explain cultural differences in assessments.