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Adverse life event reporting and worst illness episodes in unipolar and bipolar affective disorders: measuring environmental risk for genetic research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1829 - 1837
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number11
PublishedNov 2010

King's Authors


BACKGROUND: Studies exploring gene-environment interplay in affective disorders now include very large numbers of participants. Methods for evaluating the role of adversity in such studies need to be developed that do not rely on lengthy and labour-intensive interviews. In the present study, a brief questionnaire method for measuring 11 adverse events reported before interview and before their worst illness episodes by bipolar, unipolar and healthy control participants, participating in genetic association studies, was evaluated.

METHOD: Five hundred and twelve bipolar disorder (BD) participants, 1447 participants with recurrent unipolar depression (UPD) and 1346 psychiatrically healthy control participants underwent the researcher-administered version of the List of Threatening Experiences Questionnaire (LTE-Q) for the 6 months before their worst affective episodes for UPD and BD participants, and for the 6 months before interview for the UPD participants and controls.

RESULTS: UPD and BD cases were significantly more likely to report at least one event, as well as more events in the 6 months before interview and before their worst illness episodes, than healthy controls. Both manic and depressive episodes were significantly associated with adverse events in the BD cases. Depressed mood at the time of interview influenced event reporting in UPD and control participants but not the BD cases. Age was negatively correlated with the number of events reported by controls.

CONCLUSIONS: The researcher-administered LTE-Q provides a measure of case-control differences for adversity that is applicable in large genetic association studies. Confounding factors for event reporting include present mood and age.

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