General hospital specialists' attitudes toward psychiatry: a cross-sectional survey in seven countries

Inoka Koshali Wimalaratne, Jane McCarthy, Birit F P Broekman, Klaas Nauta, Samudra Kathriarachchi, Anuprabha Wickramasinghe, Alexander Merkin, Alexander Kursakov, Raz Gross, Doron Amsalem, Xiaoping Wang, Jun Wang, Clarissa de Rosalmeida Dantas, Victoria de Carvalho Pereira, David Menkes

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Objective Psychiatric comorbidities are common in physical illness and significantly affect health outcomes. Attitudes of general hospital doctors toward psychiatry are important as they influence referral patterns and quality of care. Little is known about these attitudes and their cultural correlates. The aim of this study was to identify attitudes toward psychiatry among general hospital specialists in relation to culture of the practice setting and other clinician factors (gender, age, seniority and specialty). Methods A cross-sectional, descriptive study was carried out in seven countries (New Zealand, China, Sri Lanka, Russia, Israel, Brazil, the Netherlands). Data were collected from senior medical staff of various disciplines using an updated version of Mayou and Smith's (1986) self-administered questionnaire. Results A total of 889 hospital doctors participated. While favourable attitudes toward both psychiatric consultation and management were endorsed by a majority, significant differences were also observed between countries. Subgroup differences were mostly confined to gender, acuity of practice setting and specialty. For example, female doctors in Russia (χ 2 =7.7, p=0.0056), China (χ 2 =9.2, p=0.0025) and the Netherlands (χ 2 =5.7, p=0.0174) endorsed more positive attitudes compared with their male counterparts, but this gender effect was not replicated in the total sample. Chronic care specialists were overall more inclined to manage patients' emotional problems compared with those working in acute care (χ 2 =70.8, p (adjusted)<0.0001), a significant finding seen also in individual countries (China, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Russia). Physicians were more favourably disposed toward psychiatry compared with other specialists, especially surgeons, in all countries except Israel. Conclusions This study adds to evidence for the association of medical attitudes with individual clinician factors and demonstrates that the influence of these factors varies by country. Understanding these issues may help to overcome barriers and improve quality of care provided to general hospital patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere054173
Pages (from-to)e054173
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2021

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