Depression is strongly associated with alexithymia in the general population

J Psychosom Res. 2000 Jan;48(1):99-104. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(99)00083-5.


Objective: This study examines how alexithymia and depression are related to each other in men and women in a sample of Finnish general population (n = 2018).

Methods: Alexithymia was screened using the 20-item version of the Toronto Alexithymia Scale. Level of depression was assessed using the 21-item Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Life satisfaction was estimated with a structured scale.

Results: The prevalence of alexithymia was 12.8% in men and 8.2% in women. However, the prevalence of alexithymia was 32.1% among those having BDI scores of > or = 9, but only 4.3% among the nondepressed subjects (p < 0.001). The BDI scores explained 29.2% of the variation in TAS-20 scores. Alexithymia was associated with several sociodemographic factors if depression was not taken into account. However, after including depression in the logistic regression models, only depression and low life satisfaction were associated with alexithymia, both in men and women.

Conclusion: These results suggest that alexithymia has a close relationship to depression in the general population. The impact of social factors on alexithymia may be primarily explained by depression. Depression must be taken into account as a confounding factor when studying alexithymia in general populations due to the strong association between alexithymia and depression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / epidemiology*
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Sampling Studies