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The prevalence and treatment of mental health conditions documented in general practice in Ireland

  • Jane O’Doherty (a1), Ailish Hannigan (a1), Louise Hickey (a1), David Meagher (a1), Walter Cullen (a2), Raymond O’Connor (a1) and Andrew O’Regan (a1)...



As prevalence of mental health disorders increases worldwide, recognition and treatment of these disorders falls increasingly into the remit of primary care. This study investigated the prevalence and management of adults presenting to their general practitioner (GP) in Ireland with a psychological condition.


A random number function was used to select 100 patients with a consultation in the previous 2 years from 40 general practices around Ireland. The clinical records of these patients were examined using a standardised reporting tool to extract information on demographics, eligibility for free care, prevalence and treatment of psychological conditions.


From a sample of 3845 ‘active’ patients, 620 (16%, 95% confidence interval 15–17%) had a documented psychological condition in the previous 2 years. The most common diagnoses were depression (54%) followed by stress and anxiety (47%). The following patient characteristics were associated with having a documented mental health condition: female gender; higher GP consultation rate; a referral or attendance at secondary care and eligibility for free GP care. Of those with a psychological condition, 34% received a psychological intervention and 81% received a pharmacological intervention.


The overall prevalence estimate of mental health disorders for this sample was lower than previously documented in primary care. Patients diagnosed with mental health disorders had higher utilisation of health services and pharmacological treatment was common.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: J O’Doherty, Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick, Ireland. (Email:


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