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Life events and affective disorders


  • A preliminary version of this paper was read at the 2nd International Zurich Conference on Clinical and Social Psychiatry, Zurich, 6–8 September 2001. The symposium and this publication were sponsored by Eli Lilly Suisse.

E. S. Paykel, University of Cambridge, Douglas House, 18E Trumpington Road, Cambridge CB2 2AH, UK


Objective:  To summarize research in life events and affective disorders

Method:  Review of the literature.

Results and conclusion:  Many studies have shown that episodes of unipolar depression are preceded by life events at higher rates than in control samples. A variety of stressful events are involved with only limited specificity but some relationship to social exit events. Life events also affect remission and relapse of depression. Effects of life events are less when the disorder has already been recurrent, particularly where illness is severe. Effects of life events are also weaker in bipolar disorder than unipolar, but major life events may be important in first onset. Recent evidence suggests a specific role of social rhythm disruption events in manic relapses. Causative chains are multifactorial and complex, and genetic factors can influence life event exposure.