Objective: To review recent empirical prospective studies on the relation between life event stressors and depression.
Method: A systematic literature search focusing on predictive studies was carried out from 1980 to early 2001 using Medline, Embase and PsychInfo.
Results: The empirical findings for the most part support clinical impressions of the relation of stressors to depression but at the same time provide some clearer understanding in relation to differences of stressor impact on depression type and on index episode, relapse or recurrence. Twin studies now provide the strongest evidence of the relative magnitude of effect of environmental stressors and genetic factors: the former explains at least as much of the variance in depression as our genes.
Conclusions: Continuing research into life events and depression have been fruitful especially those studies assessing the effect of stressors in combination with other aetiological variables such as genetic factors.