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In a large multicenter effort, major depressives were systematically studied at index admission and prospectively followed up for 5 years. Primary unipolar depressives with a family history of alcoholism (depression spectrum disease) differ from depressives with a family history of depression only (familial pure depressive disease) in having more familial anxiety and somatization disorder, more divorce, more suicide attempts, more negative life events, and needed more time to recover from the index episode. In the 5-year follow-up they are more likely to develop alcoholism and drug abuse. Depressive spectrum disease patients are more likely to meet systematic criteria for neurotic depression. The data suggest that major depression is a syndrome that is heterogeneous, and may be a final common pathway of more than one familial illnesses.
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Received in revised form: August 4, 1992
Received: December 11, 1991
© 1992 Published by Elsevier Inc.