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This meta-analytic review is the first to synthesise findings from prospective research on the long-term course of borderline personality disorder in adult clinical populations.
Systematic searches were conducted in Medline, PsycINFO, PsycArticles, PubMed and Scopus within the period 1990-2017. Inclusion criteria were: (1) adult BPD sample diagnosed by a validated, semi-structured interview; (2) at least two prospective assessments of outcomes; and (3) follow-up period ≥ 5 years. Quality of evidence was rated with the Systematic Assessment of Quality in Observational Research (SAQOR). Four outcomes were meta-analysed using mixed-effect methods: remission from BPD diagnosis, completed suicide, depressive symptoms, and functioning. Potential moderators regarding the natural course and the initial treatment received were studied.
Eleven studies met the inclusion criteria, with 837 participants from nine countries being followed. Between 50% and 70% of the BPD patients achieved remission in the long-term. Significant reductions in depression and functional impairment were also found. Mean suicide rate ranged from 2% to 5%. Younger age was associated with higher likelihood for remission. Being female was correlated with lower functional improvement. Despite some positive trends, there were no significant associations between treatment moderators and the long-term outcome.
Findings suggest that the course of BPD is characterised by symptomatic amelioration and a slight functional improvement in the long-term. Age and gender modulate the long-term prognosis and should be considered to adapt treatment resources. Further research is required to draw robust conclusions on the long-term effects of psychotherapeutic interventions.
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