Objectives: Subthreshold depressive disorder is one of the best established risk factors for the onset of full-syndrome depressive disorders. However, many youths with subthreshold depressive disorder do not develop full-syndrome depression. We examined predictors of escalation to full-syndrome depressive disorders in a community sample of 225 adolescents with subthreshold depressive disorder.
Method: Criteria for subthreshold depressive disorder were an episode of depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure lasting at least 1 week and at least two of the seven other DSM-IV-associated symptoms for major depression. Participants were assessed four times from mid-adolescence to age 30 years using semistructured diagnostic interviews.
Results: The estimated risk for escalation to full-syndrome depressive disorders was 67%. Five variables accounted for unique variance in predicting escalation: severity of depressive symptoms, medical conditions/symptoms, history of suicidal ideation, history of anxiety disorder, and familial loading for depression. Adolescents with three or more risk factors had an estimated 90% chance of escalating to full-syndrome depressive disorder, compared with 47% of adolescents with fewer than three risk factors.
Conclusions: These data may be useful in identifying a subgroup of youths with subthreshold depressive disorder who are at especially high risk for escalating to full-syndrome depressive disorders.