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July 1985

Birth-Cohort Trends in Rates of Major Depressive Disorder Among Relatives of Patients With Affective Disorder

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and the Psychiatric Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (Drs Klerman, Lavori, and Keller); the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University, St Louis (Drs Rice and Reich); the Department of Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York (Dr Endicott); the Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa, College of Medicine, Iowa City (Dr Andreasen); and the Center for Studies of Affective Disorders, Clinical Research Branch, Division of Extramural Research Programs, National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md (Dr Hirschfield).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1985;42(7):689-693. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1985.01790300057007

• As part of the National Institute of Mental Health—Clinical Research Branch Collaborative Program on the Psychobiology of Depression Clinical Study, 2,289 relatives of 523 probands with affective disorder were interviewed with the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia and diagnosed for major depressive disorder by the Research Diagnostic Criteria. Data were analyzed using life-table and survival methods. The findings suggest a progressive increase in rates of depression in successive birth cohorts through the 20th century and an earlier age at onset of depression in each birth cohort. A predominance of female depressives was found in all birth cohorts but the magnitude of female-male differences fluctuated over the decades. The existence of these trends is reported to stimulate further research. These findings are discussed in terms of possible gene-environment interactions. However, no conclusive causal inferences can be drawn pending further investigation.