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Family History of Depression and Therapeutic Outcome: Findings From STAR*D

J Clin Psychiatry 2009;70(2):185-195
10.4088/JCP.07m03571

Objective: It is unclear whether a positive family history of depression affects the clinical presentation or effectiveness of treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD). We aimed to determine whether depressed patients with a positive family history of depression differed from those without in terms of baseline sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, including concurrent comorbid conditions and treatment outcome with citalopram in a large, multicenter effectiveness trial.

Method: Clinical outcome and sociodemographic information were collected on 2876 participants with DSM-IV MDD enrolled from July 2001 through April 2004 in the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) study. Participants with and without a family history of depression, as determined by self-report at initial assessment, were compared.

Results: Over half (55.6%) (1585/2853) of the evaluable sample reported a positive family history of depression. A positive family history of depression was associated with an earlier age at onset of MDD, a longer length of illness, and more comorbid generalized anxiety disorder and prior suicide attempts. These participants had a slightly faster onset of remission, and slightly greater side effect burden, but they did not differ overall in response or remission rates.

Conclusion: A family history of depression was associated with several clinical characteristics, although its usefulness as a predictor of treatment outcome is questionable. The slightly faster remission with an SSRI despite the slightly greater side effect burden indicates the effectiveness of using an SSRI in treating depressed patients both with and without a family history of depression.

Trial Registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00021528