SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Background

Previous studies on the autobiographical memory (AM) of depressed patients had inconsistent findings. Various severities of depression in patients in these studies may lead to conflicting results. However, the differences in the procedure of the autobiographical memory tests (AMTs) may also influence the AM results.

Objective

In this study, we analyse the results published so far to research the AM characteristics of patients with depressive disorders and identify moderators that affect the assessment results while using AMT in this field.

Method

A systematic search was conducted using following databases: MEDLINE, PubMed, ScienceDirect, Cnki, and Google Scholar, yielding 22 studies of patients with depressive disorders and autobiographical memory published between 1986 and 2010.

Results

The results of meta-analysis showed that, compared with the control group, the patients with depressive disorders reported less specific AMs (g = −1.051) and more overgeneralized AMs (g = 1.115). The patients with depressive disorders also recalled more slowly (g = 0.400). The effect sizes of overgeneral memory could be predicted by the self-reported depression score of the depressed patients (B = −.329, < .01). The mean effect sizes of AMT indices were affected by the AMT characteristics (i.e., number of cue word, max response time, prompting, presentation of cue word, taping, and so on).

Conclusions

Our results suggest that overgeneralization and response lag are the AM deficits in patients with depressive disorders. The parameters of AMT are important factors, which are related to the inconsistency in the assessment of AM in patients with depressive disorders. Some recommendations on AMT and programme research design are given for future research.

Practitioner Points

  • This paper provides new insight into the current understanding of the AM deficits in patients with depressive disorders.
  • This paper gives new recommendations on AMT and program research design for future clinical implications.