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Previous research suggesting that over-general memory (OGM) may moderate the effect of life events on depressive symptoms and suicidality has sampled older adolescents or adults, or younger adolescents in high-risk populations, and has been conducted over relatively short follow-up periods. The authors examined the relationship between OGM at age 13 and life events and mental health outcomes (depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation and planning) at age 16 years within a sample of 5792 adolescents participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), approximately 3800 of whom had also provided data on depression and self-harm. There was no clear evidence of either direct or interactive effects of OGM at age 13 on levels of depression at age 16. Similarly there was no clear evidence of either direct or interactive effects of OGM on suicidal ideation and self-harm. Although there was some evidence that over-general autobiographical memory was associated with reduced risk of suicidal planning and increased risk of self-harm, these associations were absent when confounding variables were taken into account. The findings imply that although OGM is a marker of vulnerability to depression and related psychopathology in high-risk groups, this cannot be assumed to generalise to whole populations.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





348 - 363


Adolescence, Autobiographical memory, Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, Depression, Suicidality, Adolescent, Depression, Depressive Disorder, Female, Humans, Life Change Events, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Memory, Episodic, Mental Health, Psychology, Adolescent, Suicidal Ideation, Suicide