Characterizing Life Events as Risk Factors for Depression: The Role of Fateful Loss Events

Patrick E. Shrout, Bruce G. Link, Bruce P. Dohrenwend, Andrew E. Skodol, Ann Stueve, Jerrold Mirotznik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Empirical associations between life events and health are often weak, in part because event exposure measures may group together very different kinds of experiences within a single event category. Attempts to refine the measures (by using respondents' subjective appraisals of event stressfulness or by taking into consideration situational and personal factors that influence the contextual threat of the events) may strengthen the association, but they cloud the clarity of any causal inference by confounding the measure with extraneous variation. Instead, the use of descriptive information about what actually happened before, during, and after each event is recommended to define exposure to potent, fateful life events. In a comparison of 96 patients with major depression and 404 community residents with no apparent depression, the odds that a person would have experienced one or more events meeting criteria for fatefulness and disruptiveness was 2.5 times greater in the depressed group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-467
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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