Measuring life events and their association with clinical disorder: a protocol for development of an online approach

Ruth Spence, Amanda Bunn, Stephen Nunn, Georgina M. Hosang, Lisa Kagan, Helen Fisher, Matthew Taylor, Antonia Bifulco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Severe life events have been acknowledged for some decades as important aetiological factors in the development of major depression. Intensive interview methods capable of assessing context and meaning of events have been demonstrated to be superior to checklist questionnaire methods. Arguments for the higher validity of interview approaches have resurfaced in recent years in relation to genetic investigation of depression whereby choice of assessment tool has been implicated in whether gene-environment interactions are found. Such approaches also have greater potential for understanding and treating clinical cases.

Objectives: (i) To present the argument that life events need sophisticated measurement not satisfactorily captured in self-report checklist approaches. (ii) To review life events measures and key findings related to depression. (iii) To describe an ongoing study with a new online measure to assess life events in relation to disorder and educational outcomes.

Methods: The Computerised Life Events Assessment Record (CLEAR) is under development as a tool which through extensive programming and detailed questioning. Based on the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule (LEDS) interview, it seeks to reproduce personalised life events to self and close others, linkage to other events and difficulties and calendar-based timing, to improve on checklist approaches. The study is outlined in terms of its phases, its samples of both midlife samples with depression and controls and students, to test the psychometric properties of CLEAR, as well as its association with depression, physical illness, and education drop-out.

Conclusions: It is hoped CLEAR will gather reliable and valid data whilst overcoming interview limitations in terms of time, training, cost and geographic restriction. The advantages of using such innovative methodology for both research and clinical practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere83
JournalJMIR research protocols
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2015


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