This study examined the relationship between personality factors and depression in subjects who may have a familial vulnerability to depression (i.e. first-degree relatives of depressed patients). Four groups comprised our study sample: relatives who had never experienced a psychiatric episode of depression; relatives who had experienced a psychiatric episode of depression but were currently well; relatives who had never experienced a psychiatric episode of depression but were currently depressed; and relatives who had experienced a past history of depression and were currently depressed. Of the four personality characteristics measured (Psychoticism, Extraversion, Neuroticism and Lie), the only significant effects between groups appeared to be attributable to Neuroticism (N).
The strongest association was between current illness and N. There was also a tendency for subjects with a past history of depression to have an inflated N score. However, this appeared to be associated with the presence of current depressive symptomatology. Our findings indicate that when current symptomatology is taken into account Neuroticism does not seem to reflect the trait of liability to depression, but is strongly associated with the state of being depressed.