BACKGROUND Previous estimates of the prevalence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in community samples have been in the range 2-10%, using methods not derived from DSM algorithms. We report the first community-based study to estimate major and minor depression with a seasonal pattern in a community-based sample using a diagnostic instrument derived from DSM-III-R.
METHOD A modified version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview was administered to 8098 subjects in the 48 coterminous states of the USA (the National Comorbidity Survey) to assess the prevalence of major and minor depression with a seasonal pattern.
RESULTS The lifetime prevalence of major depression with a seasonal pattern was 0.4%, and the prevalence of major or minor depression with a seasonal pattern was 1.0%. Among respondents with major depression, male gender and older age were associated with a higher prevalence with a seasonal pattern.
CONCLUSIONS Prevalence estimates of major and minor depression with a seasonal pattern are much lower than those found in previous studies of SAD in the community, probably due to the approach to diagnosis used in the present study, which more accurately represents DSM-III-R criteria for major depression with a seasonal pattern. The distribution of the disorder is similar to that found in previous studies except for the higher prevalence among males.