• depression;
  • longitudinal studies;
  • mental recall;
  • inteviews

Objective:  Our study addressed two primary questions: (1) How reliable is long-term recall of lifetime history of episodes of depressed mood? (2) What characteristics are associated with consistent recall of this history?

Method:  Psychiatric symptoms were assessed in a population-based longitudinal survey of 1498 persons twice, in 1981 and 1994. Respondents whose reports of history of depressed affect were discordant after a 13-year follow-up interval were compared with those whose reports were concordant.

Results:  Absence of a reported history of episode of depressed mood was more consistently recalled than presence of such an episode. The kappa of reported lifetime history of episode of depressed mood was 0.32. Several personal characteristics predicted consistency of recall.

Conclusion:  If assessment of past episodes of depressed mood is used as guide for identifying cases at risk for depression, account must be taken of the personal factors that might influence recall.