Background. Little is known about the long-term outcome of personality disorder traits. The purpose of this study was to investigate, in a community-residing population, the longitudinal relationship between psychiatrist-assessed personality disorder scores and global functioning 13–18 years later.
Method. A stratified random sample of residents of east Baltimore were examined by psychiatrists in 1981 and asssessed for DSM-III personality disorders using a semi-structured instrument, the Standardized Psychiatric Examination. A total of 292 persons were re-examined by different psychiatrists during 1994–1999 using the Schedules for the Assessment of Neuropsychiatry (SCAN). After completion of the SCAN, the subjects' functional status was evaluated using the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF). The relationships between personality dimensions and follow-up GAF scores were evaluated using linear regression models.
Results. All of the personality disorder scales measured in 1981 were inversely related to functioning 13–18 years later, with the exception of narcissistic and compulsive scales. After controlling for Axis I disorders diagnosed contemporaneously with GAF assessment, schizoid, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and avoidant personality disorder scores significantly predicted GAF scores.
Conclusions. Most dimensions of DSM-III personality disorder traits were significantly associated with global functioning after an interval of 15 years. However, only schizoid, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and avoidant personality disorder traits had long-term effects on functioning when Axis I disorders at follow-up were controlled. This suggests that the functional effect of the other personality disorder traits may be mediated through their relationship with Axis I disorders. Future research is needed using more specific and sensitive outcome measures.