Natural course of adolescent major depressive disorder in a community sample: predictors of recurrence in young adults

Am J Psychiatry. 2000 Oct;157(10):1584-91. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.157.10.1584.


Objective: The primary purpose was to identify factors related to the recurrence of major depressive disorder during young adulthood (19-23 years of age) in a community sample of formerly depressed adolescents.

Method: A total of 274 participants with adolescent-onset major depressive disorder were assessed twice during adolescence and again after their 24th birthday. Lifetime psychiatric information was obtained from their first-degree relatives. Adolescent predictor variables included demographic characteristics, psychosocial variables, characteristics of adolescent major depressive disorder, comorbidity, family history of major depressive disorder and nonmood disorder, and antisocial and borderline personality disorder symptoms.

Results: Low levels of excessive emotional reliance, a single episode of major depressive disorder in adolescence, low proportion of family members with recurrent major depressive disorder, low levels of antisocial and borderline personality disorder symptoms, and a positive attributional style (males only) independently predicted which formerly depressed adolescents would remain free of future psychopathology. Female gender, multiple major depressive disorder episodes in adolescence, higher proportion of family members with recurrent major depressive disorder, elevated borderline personality disorder symptoms, and conflict with parents (females only) independently predicted recurrent major depressive disorder. Comorbid anxiety and substance use disorders in adolescence and elevated antisocial personality disorder symptoms independently distinguished adolescents who developed recurrent major depressive disorder comorbid with nonmood disorder from those who developed pure major depressive disorder.

Conclusions: Formerly depressed adolescents with the risk factors identified in this study are at elevated risk for recurrence of major depressive disorder during young adulthood and therefore warrant continued monitoring and preventive or prophylactic treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Risk Factors
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Sex Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology