The 'Early Developmental Stages of Psychopathology (EDSP) study': a 20-year review of methods and findings

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2015 Jun;50(6):851-66. doi: 10.1007/s00127-015-1062-x. Epub 2015 May 16.


Purpose: The "Early Developmental Stages of Psychopathology (EDSP)" study is a prospective-longitudinal study program in a community sample (Munich, Germany) of adolescents and young adults. The program was launched in 1994 to study the prevalence and incidence of psychopathological syndromes and mental disorders, to describe the natural course and to identify vulnerability and risk factors for onset and progression as well as psychosocial consequences. This paper reviews methods and core outcomes of this study program.

Methods: The EDSP is based on an age-stratified random community sample of originally N = 3021 subjects aged 14-24 years at baseline, followed up over 10 years with up to 3 follow-up waves. The program includes a family genetic supplement and nested cohorts with lab assessments including blood samples for genetic analyses. Psychopathology was assessed with the DSM-IV/M-CIDI; embedded dimensional scales and instruments assessed vulnerability and risk factors.

Results: Beyond the provision of age-specific prevalence and incidence rates for a wide range of mental disorders, analyses of their patterns of onset, course and interrelationships, the program identified common and diagnosis-specific distal and proximal vulnerability and risk factors including critical interactions.

Conclusions: The EDSP study advanced our knowledge on the developmental pathways and trajectories, symptom progression and unfolding of disorder comorbidity, highlighting the dynamic nature of many disorders and their determinants. The results have been instrumental for defining more appropriate diagnostic thresholds, led to the derivation of symptom progression models and were helpful to identify promising targets for prevention and intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult