Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Loss, humiliation and entrapment among women developing depression: a patient and non-patient comparison

G. W. Browna1 c1, T. O. Harrisa1 and C. Hepwortha1

a1 Department of Social Policy and Social Science, Royal Holloway, University of London


This paper is part of a series dealing with the role of life events in the onset of depressive disorders. Women who developed depression in a general population sample in Islington in North London are contrasted with a National Health Service-treated series of depressed patients in the same area. Findings among the latter confirm the importance of a severely threatening provoking event for onset among the majority of depressed women patients. The results for the two series are similar except for a small subgroup of patients characterized by a melancholic/psychotic condition with a prior episode.

The severe events of importance have been recognized for some time by the traditional ratings of the Life Events and Difficulty Schedule (LEDS). However, the full descriptive material collected by the LEDS has been used to develop a new refined measure reflecting the likelihood of feelings of humiliation and being trapped following a severely threatening event, in addition to existing measures of loss or danger. The experience of humiliation and entrapment was important in provoking depression in both the patient and non-patient series. It proved to be associated with a far greater risk of depression than the experience of loss or danger without humiliation or entrapment.


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor George W. Brown, Department of Social Policy and Social Science, Royal Holloway, University of London, 11 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RA.