Background. Culture influences symptom presentation and help-seeking and may influence the general practitioner's assessment.
Methods. We recruited Punjabi and English GP attenders to a two-phase survey in London (UK) using the Amritsar Depression Inventory and the General Health Questionnaire as screening instruments. The Clinical Interview Schedule was the criterion measure. General practitioners completed Likert assessments.
Results. The second phase was completed by 209 Punjabi and 180 English subjects. The prevalence of common mental disorders was not influenced by culture. Punjabi cases more often had ‘poor concentration and memory’ and ‘depressive ideas’ but were not more likely to have somatic symptoms. General practitioners were more likely to assess Punjabis with common mental disorder as having ‘physical and somatic’ symptoms or ‘sub-clinical disorders’. Punjabi cases with depressive ideas were less likely to be detected compared with English ones. In comparison to English men, English women were under-detected by Asian general practitioners. Help-seeking English subjects were more likely to be correctly identified as cases.
Conclusions. The prevalence of common mental disorders and somatic symptoms does not differ across cultures. Among English subjects, general practitioners were more likely to identify correctly pure psychiatric illness and mixed pathology; but Punjabi subjects with common mental disorders were more often assessed as having ‘sub-clinical disorders’ and ‘physical and somatic’ disorders. English women were less well detected than English men. English help-seeking cases were more likely to be detected.