Psychological Medicine

Humiliation, loss and other types of life events and difficulties: a comparison of depressed subjects, healthy controls and their siblings

a1 Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff

Article author query
farmer a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
mcguffin p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background. It has been proposed that adverse life events involving loss or humiliation are particularly potent in provoking depressive episodes. We have also previously suggested that experiencing high rates of non-severe events may play a role in the development of resilience to the impact of severe threatening events when these occur.

Method. The Life Events and Difficulties Schedule (LEDS) (Brown & Harris, 1978) was used to record the life events experienced by 108 depressed probands and their nearest aged siblings as well as 105 healthy control subjects and their nearest aged siblings. All subjects were interviewed using the Schedule for the Clinical Assessment of Neuropsychiatry (SCAN) (Wing et al. 1990).

Results. Depressed probands were significantly more likely to have experienced a severe threatening event, loss event, or a humiliation event compared to the other subjects. These events also made up a greater proportion of the total number of events, in the depressed probands. Humiliation events were more frequent in depressed men than depressed women. There were no differences between the four groups for experiencing a non-severe event, although depressed probands also experienced more difficulties than the other three groups. Fifty-six healthy subjects who had not become depressed despite having experienced at least one severe and threatening event, had significantly more non-severe events, than the 116 subjects who were depressed at the time of interview.

Conclusions. The findings support the hypothesis that loss and humiliation events are particularly depressogenic. Experiencing a high rate of non-severe events may be associated with resilience to becoming depressed in the face of a threatening event.

c1 Professor A. E. Farmer, MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF.