In 1983-1984 the Swedish Committee for the Prevention and Treatment of Depression offered an educational program on diagnosis and treatment of depressive disorders to all general practitioners on the island of Gotland. The program has been carefully evaluated; 1982 was used as the baseline and the main evaluation was carried out in 1985. After the educational programs, the frequency of sick leave for depressive disorders decreased, the frequency of inpatient care for depressive disorders decreased to 30% of that at the baseline; the prescription of antidepressants increased, but prescription of major tranquilizers, sedatives and hypnotics decreased. The frequency of suicide on the island decreased significantly. This study describes the long-term effects. In 1988, 3 years after the project ended, the inpatient care for depressive disorders increased, the suicidal rate returned almost to baseline values and the prescription of antidepressants stabilized. Thus, the effects were strictly related in time to the educational programs, indicating that the effects were real and not only a coincidence with local trends on Gotland. Furthermore, the results indicate that educational programs that can have pronounced effects on the health care system have to be repeated approximately every 2 years if long-term effects are to be expected.