Aim: To examine for differential psychological risk factors in a nonclinical sample having single or recurrent episodes of major depression.
Methods: A cohort of 164 subjects was assessed initially in 1978 in their last year of teacher training, and at five-yearly intervals in 1983, 1988 and 1993. Experience of episodes of DSM major depression and anxiety disorders from each wave were summed and three groups (nil, one, and two or more episodes of major depression) were derived. The cohort also completed a series of self-report measures including neuroticism, state and trait depression, self-esteem, dependency, childhood parental environment and social support.
Results: The group with two or more episodes were distinctly more likely to have met lifetime criteria for an anxiety disorder and to have had multiple anxiety disorder diagnoses over their lifetime. Groups with one or more episodes reported higher mean scores for trait depression, neuroticism and maternal overprotection and lower mean scores for paternal care and self esteem at baseline in 1978, but these variables did not predict differences between groups with single and recurrent episodes. At 1993, those with two or more episodes differed from those with none and single episodes in reporting lower trait depression scores and decreased perception of satisfactory social support over time, suggesting a psychological scarring effect for those with repeated episodes.