Differences Between Early and Late Onset Adult Depression

Jens Drachmann Bukha, *, Camilla Bocka, Maj Vinberga, Ulrik Getherb, Lars Vedel Kessinga
a Psychiatric Center Copenhagen, Denmark
b Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

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© Bukh et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Psychiatric Center Copenhagen University Hospital of Copenhagen Research Unit for Affective Disorders Blegdamsvej 9 DK-2100 Østerbro Denmark; Tel: +45 3545-6230; Fax: +45 3545-6218; E-mail:



It is unclear, whether age-of-onset identifies subgroups of depression.


To assess the clinical presentation of depression with onset in the early adult age (18-30 years) as compared to depression with later onset (31-70 years).


A total number of 301 patients with first episode depression were systematically recruited. Characteristics including psychiatric co-morbidity, personality disorders and traits, stressful life events prior to onset, family history, and treatment outcome were assessed by structured interviews and compared by chi-square tests for categorical data, t-tests for continuous parametric data and Mann-Whitney U-test for continuous nonparametric data. Logistic and multiple regression analyses were used to adjust the analyses for potentially confounding variables.


Patients with early onset of depression were characterised by a higher prevalence of co-morbid personality disorders, higher levels of neuroticism, and a lower prevalence of stressful life events preceding onset compared to patients with later age-of-onset. There were no differences in severity of the depressive episode, treatment outcome or family loading of psychiatric illness.


Early adult onset of depression is associated with co-morbid personality deviances, whereas late onset is associated with environmental risk factors.

Keywords: Depression, age-of-onset, stressful life events, neuroticism, personality disorder.