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April 1986

The Validity of the Dexamethasone Suppression Test as a Marker for Endogenous Depression

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1986;43(4):347-355. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1986.01800040057009

• The validity of the dexamethasone suppression test (DST) as an indicator of endogenous depression has been most frequently tested by examining its relationship to operational criteria of endogenous depression. However, these criteria sets themselves have not been empirically validated. We examined the DST in terms of a series of hypotheses and predictions that are consistent with the theoretical construct of endogenous depression. In a consecutively admitted sample of 187 primary unipolar depressed inpatients, the DST nonsuppressors were older, had less premobid personality disorder, better social support, less frequent marital separations or divorces, fewer nonindependent stressful life events during the year prior to admission, made fewer nonserious suicide attempts during the index episode, had fewer dysfunctional attitudes, and had a lower rate of treated alcoholism and antisocial personality in their first-degree relatives. The only clearly negative finding was the lack of association between DST results and family history of depression. Our results strongly support the construct validity of the DST as a marker of endogenous depression.