Psychological factors for the onset of depression : a meta-analysis of prospective studies

Objectives A comprehensive overview of the evidence for factors derived from leading psychological theories of the onset of major depressive disorder (MDD) that underpin psychological interventions is scarce . We aimed to systematically investigate the prospective evidence for factors derived from the behavioural, cognitive, diathesis–stress, psychodynamic and personality-based theories for the first onset of MDD.


Design Systematic review and meta-analysis. 


Methods Databases PubMed, PsycINFO, Cochrane and Embase and published articles were systematically searched from inception up to August 2019. Prospective, longitudinal studies that investigated theory-derived factors before the first onset of MDD, established by a clinical interview, were included. Screening, selection and data extraction of articles were conducted by two screeners. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation criteria were used to estimate level of confidence and risk of bias. Meta-analysis was conducted using random-effects models and mixed-method subgroup analyses.


Primary and secondary outcome measures Effect size of a factor predicting the onset of MDD (OR, risk ratio or HR).



Results From 42 133 original records published to August 2019, 26 studies met the inclusion criteria. Data were only available for the cognitive (n=6585) and personality-based (n=14 394) theories. Factors derived from cognitive theories and personality-based theories were related to increased odds of MDD onset (pooled OR=2.12, 95% CI: 1.12 to 4.00; pooled OR=2.43, 95% CI: 1.41 to 4.19). Publication bias and considerable heterogeneity were observed.


Conclusion There is some evidence that factors derived from cognitive and personality-based theories indeed predict the onset of MDD (ie, dysfunctional attitudes and negative emotionality). There were no studies that prospectively studied factors derived from psychodynamic theories and not enough studies to examine the robust evidence for behavioural and diathesis–stress theories. Overall, the prospective evidence for psychological factors of MDD is limited, and more research on the leading psychological
theories is needed.


PROSPERO registration number CRD42017073975.

Zhongfang Fu, Marlies Brouwer, Mitzy Kennis, Alishia Williams, Pim Cuijpers, Claudi Bockting | 2021
In: BMJ Open : ISSN: 2044-6055 | 11 | juli | e050129
Depressive Disorders, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Etiology, Major Depressive Disorder, Meta Analysis, Methodology, Mood Disorders, Predisposition, Research, Research Needs, Systematic Review
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