Positive and negative life events and personality traits in predicting course of depression and anxiety

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2011 Dec;124(6):462-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01753.x. Epub 2011 Aug 17.


Objective: To examine the prognostic value of personality dimensions and negative and positive life events for diagnostic and symptom course trajectories in depressive and anxiety disorder.

Method: A total of 1209 subjects (18-65 years) with depressive and/or anxiety disorder were recruited in primary and specialized mental health care. Personality dimensions at baseline were assessed with the NEO-FFI and incidence and date of life events retrospectively with a structured interview at 2-year follow-up. DSM-IV-based diagnostic interviews as well as life chart assessments allowed course assessment at both the diagnostic and symptom trajectory level over 2 years.

Results: Life events were significantly related to diagnostic and symptom course trajectories of depression and anxiety also after correcting for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics. Only negative life events prospectively predicted longer time to remission of depressive disorder. Prospective associations of neuroticism and extraversion with prognosis of anxiety and depression were greatly reduced after correcting for baseline severity and duration of index disorder. Personality traits did not moderate the effect of life events on 2-year course indicators.

Conclusions: Negative life events have an independent effect on diagnostic and symptom course trajectories of depression and to a lesser extent anxiety unconfounded by sociodemographic, clinical, and personality characteristics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders* / psychology
  • Causality
  • Depressive Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder* / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder* / psychology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Effect Modifier, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Personality Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Personality*
  • Prognosis
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index