Abstract BACKGROUND: Depressive symptoms in elderly patients are common. However diagnosing, treating and preventing depression in this group is far from adequate. Recommending social contact to elderly patients is an effective way to reduce loneliness and depressive symptoms, and increase quality of life. Since depressive elderly patients prefer to be treated in primary care, the role of general practitioner (GP) in recommending social contact is crucial. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this project is to identify GPs’ focus on social contact regarding elderly patients with depression, to assess factors that might affect their practices on recommending social contact and identify the elderly patients’ experience of social contact and loneliness. METHODS: A cross-sectional study in which data were collected by interviewing GPs, or through questionnaires filled by GPs. Different questionnaires were filled by the patients. A qualitative study was also conducted to assess factors that affect GPs’ practices. We based this on previously identified determinants of adherence to the recommendation regarding social contact. RESULTS: One hundred and twenty-four GPs participated in the study. They recommended social contact for 279 (88%) of 316 patients. Eighty of 134 patients (60 %) felt loneliness several times in the past month. The qualitative interviews showed that to some degree all identified factors affected the practices on this recommendation. CONCLUSIONS: Though a great number of patients are recommended social contact, the percentage of loneliness among depressive patients remains high. The factors affecting recommendation of social contact remains an important barrier for general practitioners. This stresses the need for improving social contact and reducing loneliness in elderly patients with depression.