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January 23, 2017

More doctors are uncomfortable discussing patients’ mental health than weight

According to over 3200 physicians, patients are least honest with them about domestic abuse, most honest about tobacco use

New York, NY — Having difficult conversations with patients is part of practicing medicine. However, according to SERMO, the largest global social network for doctors with more than 600,000 members worldwide, certain topics are more uncomfortable for doctors to discuss than others.

SERMO surveyed their global physician membership if they feel comfortable discussing mental health issues with their adult patients. 27 percent of respondents reported feeling uncomfortable with addressing mental health concerns.

One American pediatric physician explained that discussing mental health is made more uncomfortable for physicians because of the lack of support available to patients who need mental health care: “[if doctors raise this issue more], depression rates in the U.S. will ‘skyrocket,’ SSRI sales will ‘skyrocket’ and we will stress an already stressed mental health infrastructure… To be clear, I am a strong advocate of mental health services and do treat a large subset of my patients for depression... [but] there is no infrastructure to support it.”

However, when asked if they are comfortable discussing weight loss with patients, only eight percent of doctors reported feeling uncomfortable.

A Canadian general practitioner said, “I feel quite comfortable recommending weight loss. My obese patients know they are obese and I think they expect me to bring it up, even though they may not like to hear it. One doesn't have to do it in a mean or nasty way, it can be done gently and non-judgmentally but medically correctly stating the facts.”

Other recent SERMO polling indicates that doctors believe patients are most truthful about tobacco use and eating and exercise habits, among personal issues discussed at appointments, and are least honest with physicians about drug use and domestic abuse. 

As a surgeon from South Africa commented, “One can create a positive, non-judgmental, relaxed environment where truth is the order of the day… There are situations, e.g. cases where drug addiction plays a role, where dishonesty is the rule. Diagnosis, I believe, is a Greek word: ‘knowing through’ or something like that. It is our job to understand complex human situations to ease suffering.”

As a surgeon from South Africa commented, “One can create a positive, non-judgmental, relaxed environment where truth is the order of the day… There are situations, e.g. cases where drug addiction plays a role, where dishonesty is the rule. Diagnosis, I believe, is a Greek word: ‘knowing through’ or something like that. It is our job to understand complex human situations to ease suffering.”

To learn more about the methodology of these polls, please visit our blog here.

For more information about SERMO polls, please visit www.sermo.com/polls.

About SERMO
SERMO is the leading global social network for physicians where more than 600,000 fully verified and licensed physicians from 30 countries anonymously talk real-world medicine, collectively solve cases, respond to healthcare polls, and earn honorarium from surveys.

SERMO is also the world’s largest healthcare professional (HCP) polling company, and conducts 700,000 surveys per year. The SERMO research network is comprised of two million HCPs from 80 countries, and includes the largest U.S. physician panel in existence: over 800,000 doctors who represent more than 80 percent of the U.S. physician population. Learn more at www.SERMO.com.

Media Contacts:

Liz Wells, Racepoint Global
ewells@racepointglobal.com;
o:+1 202 517 1386

Osnat Benshoshan, Chief Marketing Officer, SERMO
osnat.benshoshan@sermo.com