Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 269–278 | Cite as

Does family history of depression predict major depression in midlife women? Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation Mental Health Study (SWAN MHS)

  • Alicia Colvin
  • Gale A. Richardson
  • Jill M. Cyranowski
  • Ada Youk
  • Joyce T. BrombergerEmail author
Original Article


This study aims to determine whether family history of depression predicts major depression in midlife women independent of psychosocial and health profiles at midlife. Participants were 303 African American and Caucasian women (42–52 years at baseline) recruited into the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) and the Women’s Mental Health Study (MHS) in Pittsburgh. Major depression was assessed annually with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. Family mental health history was collected at the ninth or tenth follow-up. Multivariable logistic regression was used to determine whether family history of depression predicted major depression in midlife, adjusting for covariates. The odds of experiencing major depression during the study were three times greater for those with a family history than for those without a family history (OR = 3.22, 95 % CI = 1.95–5.31). Family history predicted depression (OR = 2.67, 95 % CI = 1.50–4.78) after adjusting for lifetime history of depression, age, trait anxiety, chronic medical conditions, and stressful life events. In analyses stratified by lifetime history of depression, family history significantly predicted depression only among women with a lifetime history of depression. Family history of depression predicts major depression in midlife women generally, but particularly in those with a lifetime history of depression prior to midlife.


Family history of depression Major depression Menopause Midlife women 



The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) has grant support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), DHHS, through the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) (Grants U01NR004061; U01AG012505, U01AG012535, U01AG012531, U01AG012539, U01AG012546, U01AG012553, U01AG012554, and U01AG012495). The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIA, NINR, ORWH, or the NIH. Funding from The National Institute of Mental Health for the Mental Health Study is gratefully acknowledged. Joyce T. Bromberger, PI (R01 MH59689) thanks the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Gale A. Richardson, Program Director (T32 MH015169) thanks the Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Grant Fellowship.

Participating institutions and principal staff were as follows. Clinical Center: University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA—Karen Matthews, PI. NIH Program Office: National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, MD—Winifred Rossi, 2012–present; Sherry Sherman, 1994–2012; Marcia Ory, 1994–2001; National Institute of Nursing Research, Bethesda, MD, USA—Program Officers. Central Laboratory: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor—Daniel McConnell (Central Ligand Assay Satellite Services). Coordinating Center: University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA—Maria Mori Brooks, PI 2012–present; Kim Sutton-Tyrrell, PI 2001–2012; New England Research Institutes, Watertown, MA, USA—Sonja McKinlay, PI 1995–2001. Steering Committee: Susan Johnson, Current Chair, Chris Gallagher, Former Chair. We thank the study staff and all the women who participated in SWAN.

Ethical standards

This study was approved by the University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board. All participants provided informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alicia Colvin
    • 1
  • Gale A. Richardson
    • 2
  • Jill M. Cyranowski
    • 2
  • Ada Youk
    • 3
  • Joyce T. Bromberger
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public HealthUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, School of MedicineUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biostatistics, Graduate School of Public HealthUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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