Positive life change and remission of non-psychotic mental illness. A competing outcomes approach

J Affect Disord. 2003 Sep;76(1-3):69-78. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(02)00068-x.


Background: Episode duration in non-psychotic mental illness is associated with personal characteristics of patients, like age or personality. Part of these links may be mediated by life change, a predictor of episode duration in its own right.

Methods: In 170 primary care patients who suffered 4171 person-months of non-psychotic mental illness diagnosed according to Bedford College Criteria, we examined to what extent associations with episode duration of nine person-linked variables including personal vulnerability, coping styles and social support, are mediated by their effects on the occurrence, during episodes, of positive life changes (PLC) assessed using the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule. Cox regression for competing endpoints was used to analyse the simultaneous effects of baseline variables on PLC and on remission, whether spontaneous or not.

Results: Irrespective of diagnosis and symptom intensity, PLC during episodes increases remission rates 2.9-fold (P<0.001). Remission rates are higher in patients with larger social networks and who seek more help but this is partly because such persons experience more PLC earlier during episodes. Lower neuroticism is also linked with shorter episode duration but this effect is unmediated by PLC.

Limitations: Mental state may bias dating and reporting of life change. Treatment aspects were not recorded. Elderly subjects were not included.

Conclusion: PLC occurrence during common mental illness is associated with psychosocial variables which are also overall predictors of episode remission. Thus, PLC mediates between patients' psychosocial make-up and their chances of speedy recovery. This has implications for the management of non-psychotic mental illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care
  • Prognosis
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Support