Six-year longitudinal course and outcomes of subtypes of depression

Br J Psychiatry. 2016 Jan;208(1):62-8. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.114.153098. Epub 2015 Aug 20.


Background: Clinical and aetiological heterogeneity have impeded our understanding of depression.

Aims: To evaluate differences in psychiatric and somatic course between people with depression subtypes that differed clinically (severity) and aetiologically (melancholic v. atypical).

Method: Data from baseline, 2-, 4- and 6-year follow-up of The Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety were used, and included 600 controls and 648 people with major depressive disorder (subtypes: severe melancholic n = 308; severe atypical n = 167; moderate n = 173, established using latent class analysis).

Results: Those with the moderate subtype had a significantly better psychiatric clinical course than the severe melancholic and atypical subtype groups. Suicidal thoughts and anxiety persisted longer in those with the melancholic subtype. The atypical subtype group continued to have the highest body mass index and highest prevalence of metabolic syndrome during follow-up, although differences between groups became less pronounced over time.

Conclusions: Course trajectories of depressive subtypes mostly ran parallel to each other, with baseline severity being the most important differentiator in course between groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Body Mass Index
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / classification*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Suicidal Ideation*