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J Psychiatr Res. 2003 Jan-Feb;37(1):9-15.

Place of chronic insomnia in the course of depressive and anxiety disorders.

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Stanford Epidemiology Sleep Research Center, Stanford University, 401 Quarry Road Suite 3301, School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.



Insomnia is frequent in the general population and is often related to a psychiatric illness. However, little is known about how the chronicity of insomnia affects this relation and how often subjects with chronic insomnia have antecedents of psychiatric disorders.


A total of 14,915 subjects aged from 15 to 100 years representative of the general population of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Portugal were interviewed by telephone using the Sleep-EVAL system. The questionnaire assessed current psychiatric disorders according to the DSM-IV classification and a series of questions assessed the psychiatric history. Insomnia was considered as chronic when it lasted for 6 months or more.


The prevalence for insomnia accompanied with impaired daytime functioning was 19.1% and significantly increased with age. More than 90% of these subjects had a chronic insomnia. About 28% of subjects with insomnia had a current diagnosis of mental disorders and 25.6% had a psychiatric history. A DSM-IV insomnia disorder was found in 6.6% of the sample. Presence of severe insomnia, diagnosis of primary insomnia or insomnia related to a medical condition, and insomnia that lasted more than one year were predictors of a psychiatric history. In most cases of mood disorders, insomnia appeared before (> 40%) or in the same time (> 22%) than mood disorder symptoms. When anxiety disorders were involved, insomnia appeared mostly in the same time (>38%) or after (> 34%) the anxiety disorder.


The study shows that psychiatric history is closely related to the severity and chronicity of current insomnia. Moreover, chronic insomnia can be a residual symptom of a previous mental disorder and put these subjects to a higher risk of relapse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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