JOURNAL ARTICLE

Predictors of first lifetime episodes of major depression in midlife women

J T Bromberger, H M Kravitz, K Matthews, A Youk, C Brown, W Feng
Psychological Medicine 2009, 39 (1): 55-64
18377672

BACKGROUND: Little is known about factors that predict first lifetime episodes of major depression in middle-aged women. It is not known whether health-related factors and life stress pose more or less of a risk to the onset of clinical depression than does the menopausal transition.

METHOD: The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders (SCID) was used to assess diagnoses of lifetime, annual and current major depression in a community-based sample of premenopausal or early perimenopausal African American and White women. Menstrual cycle characteristics, psychosocial and health-related factors, and blood samples for assay of reproductive hormones were obtained annually. Two hundred and sixty-six women without a history of major depression at baseline constituted the cohort for the current analyses.

RESULTS: Over 7 years of follow-up, 42 (15.8%) women met criteria for a diagnosis of major depression. Frequent vasomotor symptoms (VMS; hot flashes and/or night sweats) (HR 2.14, p=0.03) were a significant predictor of major depression in univariate analyses. After simultaneous adjustment for multiple predictors in Cox proportional hazards analyses, frequent VMS were no longer significant; lifetime history of an anxiety disorder (HR 2.20, p=0.02) and role limitations due to physical health (HR 1.88, p=0.07) at baseline and a very stressful life event (HR 2.25, p=0.04) prior to depression onset predicted a first episode of major depression.

CONCLUSIONS: Both earlier (e.g. history of anxiety disorders) and more proximal factors (e.g. life stress) may be more important than VMS in contributing to a first episode of major depression during midlife.

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