Family involvement and social support are associated with recovery from mental disorders. This project explored how family involvement in health care and social support among depressed veterans in primary care related to medication adherence and depression outcomes.
During a longitudinal telephone survey, 761 Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care patients (mean age=60 years) with probable major depression were asked about depression symptoms, self-reported health, medication adherence, social support, family involvement with care, and satisfaction with clinicians’ efforts to involve the patients’ families in their care. Follow-up interviews at seven and 18 months assessed depression severity and medication adherence.
Most participants lived with others (71%) and reported moderately high social support. Most participants (62%) reported being very likely to discuss treatment of a major medical condition with family, but 64% reported that VA providers had not involved the participants’ family in their care within the prior six months. In multivariate regression analyses, lower depression severity and better medication adherence over time were significantly linked to higher satisfaction with limited efforts by clinicians to involve families in care. Neither social support nor the extent of family involvement by itself was associated with outcomes.
The results suggested a link between patient satisfaction with family involvement by clinicians and clinical outcomes among depressed veterans. In addition, clinician responsiveness to patient wishes may be more important than the amount of family involvement per se. Further research is needed to clarify when and how clinicians should involve a patient’s family in depression treatment in primary care.