An assessment of the long-term outcome for depression and anxiety disorders in a general population was made as part of the Stirling County Study. Measuring outcome as a dichotomy between experiencing recurrent episodes or not during a 17-year cohort interval, it was found that 56% of the 'cases' had a poor prognosis. While sex, age and level of severity were not significantly related to outcome, an initial diagnosis of depression was predictive of unfavourable prognosis. Only a few of these 'cases' received psychiatric specialty treatment. Some disorders in the community appear, however, to be as serious as those that come to the attention of psychiatrists.