Using multiple diagnostic and epidemiological criteria, three samples of general practice (GP) depressives were studied: those prescribed a new course of antidepressants, those given other treatment, and those missed by the GP. The majority of patients qualified as psychiatric cases on the PSE Index of Definition, the Bedford College Criteria, and the Research Diagnostic Criteria. Most satisfied diagnostic criteria for depression, or (fewer) anxiety. The disorders were relatively mild and often borderline on all three systems. Depressives given other treatment most often failed to meet diagnostic criteria. About half the antidepressant treated patients received RDC diagnoses of major depression. Among the other treatment sample, only one-fifth met these criteria, and half had non-depressive diagnoses. Most cases of depression treated by GPs satisfy criteria for psychiatric disorder, but tend to be relatively mild and borderline in quality.