We reviewed follow-up studies of adults with depressive disorders seen in psychiatric settings, and noted outcomes in terms of recovery, recurrence, and persistent depression, at six months, one year, two to five years, and ten or more years after an index episode of depression. Recovery increased with time: about half recovered at least briefly by six months, and a large majority did so in the long term. Only about a quarter recovered from an index episode and remained well more than ten years thereafter. A quarter of patients suffered recurrence of depression within a year of an index episode, and three-quarters did so at least once during follow-up periods lasting more than ten years. For more than one in ten patients, the depression proved persistent, the proportion affected remaining relatively stable over time. The review highlighted a relative paucity of conclusive investigations on the outcome of the commonest psychiatric disorder in clinical settings.