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Does the impact of major stressful life events on the risk of developing depression change throughout life?

  • L. V. KESSING (a1), E. AGERBO (a1) and P. B. MORTENSEN (a1)


Background. It is unclear whether there is an interaction of ageing on the association between major life events and onset of depression.

Method. This was a population-based nested case–control study with linkage of the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register and the Integrated Database for Longitudinal Labour Market Research. The study includes data on all admissions at psychiatric wards in Denmark from 1981 to 1998 and data on sociodemographic variables and death/suicide of first-degree relatives.

Results. A total of 13006 patients who received a diagnosis of depression at the first ever admission at a psychiatric ward and a gender- and age-matched control group of 260108 subjects were identified. A recent divorce and recent unemployment and suicide of a relative (mother, father, sibling, child, spouse) were associated with increased risk of being admitted for the first time ever at a psychiatric ward with a diagnosis of depression whereas death of a relative by causes other than suicide years had no significant effect. In general, no interaction was found with age with any of the variables, totally, or for men or women, separately.

Conclusions. The susceptibility to major life stressors does not seem to change throughout life.


Corresponding author

Dr Lars Vedel Kessing, Department of Psychiatry, University of Copenhagen, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark.


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