The British Journal of Psychiatry
Clinical and psychosocial origins of chronic depressive episodes. II. A patient enquiry.
G W Brown, T O Harris, C Hepworth, R Robinson


BACKGROUND We consider how well the psychosocial and clinical factors found to predict a chronic course for depressive episodes in the community, held for female psychiatric patients.

METHOD A consecutive series of depressed patients, aged 18 to 60, treated as in-patients, out-patients or day-patients at psychiatric departments of two London hospitals, were interviewed initially and at follow-up two years later.

RESULTS Indices of childhood adversity and current interpersonal difficulties predicted episodes taking a chronic course (of more than 12 months' duration). Half of the episodes associated with one or the other factor were chronic, compared with 22% of those with neither. The patients were at higher risk than the community series (75% v. 34%) and this explains their much greater rate of chronicity. There was also some evidence that social support reduced risk. Clinical features and the presence of a personality disorder were unrelated to chronicity.

CONCLUSIONS Similar psychosocial factors are important for predicting chronicity in both community and patient series.