Previous disorders and depression outcomes in individuals with 12-month major depressive disorder in the World Mental Health surveys

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Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by a recurrent course and high comorbidity rates. A lifespan perspective may therefore provide important information regarding health outcomes. The aim of the present study is to examine mental disorders that preceded 12-month MDD diagnosis and the impact of these disorders on depression outcomes.
Data came from 29 cross-sectional community epidemiological surveys of adults in 27 countries (n=80,190). The Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) was used to assess 12-month MDD and lifetime DSM-IV disorders with onset prior to the respondent’s age at interview. Disorders were grouped into depressive distress disorders, non-depressive distress disorders, fear disorders, and externalizing disorders. Depression outcomes included 12-month suicidality, days out of role, and impairment in role functioning.
Among respondents with 12-month MDD, 94.9% (SE=0.4) had at least one prior disorder (including previous MDD), and 64.6% (SE=0.9) had at least one prior, non-MDD disorder. Previous non-depressive distress, fear, and externalizing disorders, but not depressive distress disorders, predicted higher impairment (OR=1.4-1.6) and suicidality (OR=1.5-2.5), after adjustment for sociodemographic variables. Further adjustment for MDD characteristics weakened, but did not eliminate, these associations. Associations were largely driven by current comorbidities, but both remitted and current externalizing disorders predicted suicidality among respondents with 12-month MDD.
These results illustrate the importance of careful psychiatric history taking regarding current anxiety disorders and lifetime externalizing disorders in individuals with MDD.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEpidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Oct 2021


  • major depressive disorder
  • comorbidity
  • impairment
  • suicidal thoughts and behaviors


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