This paper reports the course with respect to remission and relapse of a cohort of predominantly in-patient RDC major depressive subjects, who were followed at 3-monthly intervals to remission and for up to 15 months thereafter. Remission was comparatively rapid with 70% of subjects remitting within 6 months. Only 6% failed to do so by 15 months. However, 40% relapsed over the subsequent 15 months, with all the relapses occurring in the first 10 months. Greater severity of the depression and longer duration of the illness predicted a longer time to remission. Greater initial severity of depression also predicted relapse. Subjects with a worse outcome had not received less adequate treatment than the remainder. Our results confirm the comparatively poor outcome subsequent to remission that has been reported in recent literature, in spite of the availability of modern methods of treatment. The clustering of relapses in the first 10 months gives some support to the distinction between relapse and later recurrence.