Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Affective disorders in five United States communities

Myrna M. Weissmana1 c1, Philip J. Leafa1, Gary L. Tischlera1, Dan G. Blazera1, Marvin Karnoa1, Martha Livingston Brucea1 and Louis P. Florioa1

a1 Departments of Psychiatry, Epidemiology, Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, CT; Department of Psychiatry, Duke University, Durham, NC; Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA


Results on the age/sex specific prevalence of DSM-III affective disorders from the NIMH Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study (ECA), a probability sample of over 18000 adults from five United States communities, are presented. The cross-site means for bipolar disorder ranged from 0·7/100 (2 weeks) to 1–2/100 (lifetime), with a mean age of onset of 21 years and no sex difference in rates. The cross-site means for major depression ranged from 1·5/100 (2 weeks) to 4·4/ 100 (lifetime), with a mean age of onset of 27 years and higher rates in women. The cross-site means for dysthymia, a chronic condition, was 3·1/100 with a higher rate in women. There was reasonable consistency in prevalence rates among sites. The implications of these findings for understanding psychopathology are discussed.


c1 Address for correspondence. Dr Myrna M. Weissman, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, 722 West 168th St – Box 14, New York, NY, 10032, USA.