Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Personality and risk for depression in a birth cohort of 70-year-olds followed for 15 years

P. R. Dubersteina1 c1, S. P. Pálssona2, M. Waerna3 and I. Skooga1

a1 Laboratory of Personality and Development, Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, USA

a2 Division of Psychiatry, Landspitali University Hospital, University of Iceland, Iceland

a3 Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, Sweden


Background The association between personality traits and the first lifetime onset of clinically significant depression has not been studied in older adults.

Method Experienced psychiatrists conducted interviews and chart reviews at baseline and throughout the 15-year follow-up period. Survival analyses were conducted on the presence/absence of a DSM-III-R mood disorder at follow-up.

Results There were 59 cases of first lifetime episodes of depression. Analyses showed that Neuroticism [hazard ratio (HR) per one point increase in the Maudsley Personality Inventory (MPI)=1.05, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02–1.08] but not Extroversion (HR 1.02, 95% CI 0.97–1.06) amplified risk for mood disorder.

Conclusions This prospective study on a randomly sampled birth cohort of older adults showed that Neuroticism confers risk for a first lifetime episode of clinically significant depression. Findings have implications for understanding the etiology of late-life depression (LLD) and could also aid in the identification and treatment of people at risk.

(Received March 29 2007)

(Revised November 30 2007)

(Accepted December 06 2007)

(Online publication February 01 2008)


c1 Address for correspondence: P. R. Duberstein, Ph.D., Laboratory of Personality and Development, Box PSYCH, University of Rochester Medical Center, 300 Crittenden Boulevard, Rochester, NY 14642, USA. (Email:


Portions of this article were presented at the 2003 meeting of the International Psychogeriatrics Association in Chicago, IL, and the 2004 meeting of the American Psychological Association in Honolulu, HI, USA.

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