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JAMA. 1999 May 12;281(18):1707-13.

Depressed adolescents grown up.

Author information

  • 1Division of Clinical and Genetic Epidemiology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York 10032, USA. weissman@child.cpmc.columbia.edu



Major depressive disorder (MDD) that arises in adolescence impairs functioning and is associated with suicide risk, but little is known about its continuity into adulthood.


To describe the clinical course of adolescent-onset MDD into adulthood.


Prospective case-control study. Seventy-three subjects had onset of MDD based on systematic clinical assessment during adolescence (Tanner stage III-V) and 37 controls had no evidence of past or current psychiatric disorders, and also were assessed in adolescence (assessment years: 1977-1985). Follow-up was conducted 10 to 15 years after the initial assessment by an independent team without knowledge of initial diagnosis (follow-up years: 1992-1996).


Cases were identified at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, New York City, NY; controls were recruited from the community.


Suicide and suicide attempts, psychiatric diagnoses, treatment utilization, and social functioning.


Clinical outcomes of adolescent-onset MDD into adulthood compared with control subjects without psychiatric illness include a high rate of suicide (7.7%); a 5-fold increased risk for first suicide attempt; a 2-fold increased risk of MDD, but not other psychiatric disorders; an increased occurrence of psychiatric and medical hospitalization; and impaired functioning in work, social, and family life. Thirty-seven percent of those with adolescent MDD survived without an episode of MDD in adulthood vs 69% of the control participants (relative risk, 2.2 [95% confidence interval, 1.0-4.7; P<.05]).


There is substantial continuity, specificity, morbidity, and potential mortality from suicide into adulthood in adolescent-onset MDD patients. Now that empirically based guides to their treatment are becoming available, early identification and treatment seems warranted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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