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Short-term outcome of major depression: II. Life events, family dysfunction, and friendship difficulties as predictors of persistent disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge Clinical School, University of Cambridge, England.



To determine whether there is a pattern of social characteristics that specifically predicts persistent major depression at 36 weeks follow-up.


Sixty-eight consecutive cases with a first-episode DSM-III-R diagnosis of major depression completed a life events and friendship difficulties interview at presentation and again at 36 weeks.


Four factors were associated with persistent psychiatric disorder in general: lack of a maternal confiding relationship with current partner, family dysfunction and poor friendships at presentation, and severely disappointing events between presentation and follow-up. There was no association between these adverse experiences. No combination of long-term or recent life events or difficulties was, however, specifically associated with persistent depression.


Nonsocial factors may need to be taken into account to specifically explain the phenotypic persistence of major depressive disorder in first-episode nonrecovered cases within a year of presentation. Psychosocial interventions with first-degree relatives and current close friendships should be considered as a part of the treatment strategy for first-episode major depression.

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