Prevalence and predictors of depressive symptoms in older premenopausal women: The Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles

Bernard L. Harlow, Lee S. Cohen, Michael W. Otto, Donna Spiegelman, Daniel W. Cramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Background: The Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles is a community-based cohort study designed to evaluate the relationship between major depression and changes in menstrual and ovarian function. Methods: All women aged 36 to 44 years with a verifiable address from 7 Boston, Mass, metropolitan communities were selected from the Massachusetts Town Books. A self- administered questionnaire assessed demographic characteristics and menstrual history, depression history, and current depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale [CES-D]) in 4161 women. Results: We observed a score of 16 or more on the CES-D in 22.4% of women surveyed, and 8.6% scored 25 or more. Widowed, divorced, or separated women were twice as likely as married women to have depression scores greater than 16 (95% confidence interval, 1.6-2.8), and smokers in the upper tertile of pack- years were 1.9 times more likely to have CES-D scores of 16 or more (95% confidence interval, 1.5-2.3). Relative to nulliparous women, those with 1 or 2 children had a 30% lower risk of historic mood disorder, and those with 3 or more children had an even greater reduction in risk (odds ratio, 0.4; 95% confidence interval, 0.3-0.6). Menstrual cycle irregularities were largely unassociated with current or past depression. However, 5 of 8 premenstrual symptoms were significantly associated with CES-D scores of 16 or more. Conclusions: These findings corroborate the prevalence of depression reported by other community-based studies, and also support a relationship between depressive symptoms and marital status, cigarette smoking, nulliparity, and premenstrual symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-424
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1999
Externally publishedYes


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