Reductions in an overall score of ongoing difficulties and the occurrence of a 'fresh start' event often preceded the recovery or improvement of women in a general-population survey suffering from chronic depression, i.e. with episodes lasting 12 months or more. In addition, overall levels of difficulties and presence of social support were independently related to recovery or improvement. Some of the life-changes preceding recovery were threatening, but all promised some hope of a better future. Evidence is presented that the results as a whole are unlikely to be due to incipient changes in clinical condition leading the women to make changes in their environment, but some bias of this kind cannot be entirely ruled out.