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Season of birth, clinical manifestations and Dexamethasone Suppression Test in unipolar major depression

Author(s): Fountoulakis Konstantinos | Iacovides Apostolos | Karamouzis Michael | Kaprinis George | Ierodiakonou Charalambos

Journal: Annals of General Psychiatry
ISSN 1744-859X

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 20;
Date: 2007;
Original page

Abstract Background Reports in the literature suggest that the season of birth might constitute a risk factor for the development of a major psychiatric disorder, possibly because of the effect environmental factors have during the second trimester of gestation. The aim of the current paper was to study the possible relationship of the season of birth and current clinical symptoms in unipolar major depression. Methods The study sample included 45 DSM-IV major depressive patients and 90 matched controls. The SCAN v. 2.0, Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAS) were used to assess symptomatology, and the 1 mg Dexamethasone Suppression Test (DST) was used to subcategorize patients. Results Depressed patients as a whole did not show differences in birth season from controls. However, those patients born during the spring manifested higher HDRS while those born during the summer manifested the lowest HAS scores. DST non-suppressors were almost exclusively (90%) likely to be born during autumn and winter. No effect from the season of birth was found concerning the current severity of suicidal ideation or attempts. Discussion The current study is the first in this area of research using modern and rigid diagnostic methodology and a biological marker (DST) to categorize patients. Its disadvantages are the lack of data concerning DST in controls and a relatively small size of patient sample. The results confirm the effect of seasonality of birth on patients suffering from specific types of depression.
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