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OBJECTIVES: UK Biobank is a landmark cohort of over 500,000 participants which will be used to investigate genetic and non-genetic risk factors for a wide range of adverse health outcomes. This is the first study to systematically assess the prevalence and validity of proposed criteria for probable mood disorders within the cohort (major depression and bipolar disorder). METHODS: This was a descriptive epidemiological study of 172,751 individuals assessed for a lifetime history of mood disorder in relation to a range of demographic, social, lifestyle, personality and health-related factors. The main outcomes were prevalence of a probable lifetime (single) episode of major depression, probable recurrent major depressive disorder (moderate), probable recurrent major depressive disorder (severe), probable bipolar disorder and no history of mood disorder (comparison group). Outcomes were compared on age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, functioning, self-reported health status, current depressive symptoms, neuroticism score, smoking status and alcohol use. RESULTS: Prevalence rates for probable single lifetime episode of major depression (6.4%), probable recurrent major depression (moderate) (12.2%), probable recurrent major depression (severe) (7.2%) and probable bipolar disorder (1.3%) were comparable to those found in other population studies. The proposed diagnostic criteria have promising validity, with a gradient in evidence from no mood disorder through major depression and probable bipolar disorder in terms of gender distribution, socioeconomic status, self-reported health rating, current depressive symptoms and smoking. SIGNIFICANCE: The validity of our proposed criteria for probable major depression and probable bipolar disorder within this cohort are supported by these cross-sectional analyses. Our findings are likely to prove useful as a framework for a wide range of future genetic and non-genetic studies.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Aged, Bipolar Disorder, Cross-Sectional Studies, Depressive Disorder, Major, Female, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Prevalence, Probability, Risk Factors, Socioeconomic Factors, United Kingdom