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Duration of major depressive episodes in the general population: Results from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS)

  • Jan Spijker (a1), Ron De Graaf (a2), Rob V Bijl (a3), Aartjan T. F. Beekman (a4), Johan Ormel (a5) and Willem A. Nolen (a6)...

Data on the duration of major depressive episodes (MDE) in the general population are sparse.


To assess the duration of MDE and its clinical and socio-demographic determinants in a study group drawn from the general population with newly originated episodes of major depression.


The Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study is a prospective epidemiological survey in the adult population (n=7076), using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Duration of MDE over 2 years was assessed with a Life Chart Interview.


The median duration of MDE was 3.0 months; 50% of participants recovered within 3 months, 63% within 6 months, 76% within 12 months and nearly 20% had not recovered at 24 months. Determinants of persistence were severity of depression and comorbid dysthymia. A recurrent episode predicted shorter duration.


Although half of those affected with MDE recovered rapidly, the risk of chronicity (duration 24months or more) was considerable. This underlines the necessity of diagnosing and treating those at risk.

Corresponding author
Jan Spijker, Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction (Trimbos Institute), PO Box 725, 3500 AS Utrecht, The Netherlands. Tel: +31 302971100; fax: +31 302971111; e-mail:
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See editorial, pp.181–183, this issue

Declaration of interest

The study was supported by The Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Medical Sciences Department of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and the National Institute for Public Health and Environment.

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Duration of major depressive episodes in the general population: Results from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS)

  • Jan Spijker (a1), Ron De Graaf (a2), Rob V Bijl (a3), Aartjan T. F. Beekman (a4), Johan Ormel (a5) and Willem A. Nolen (a6)...
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