To examine estimates of lifetime prevalence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in Toronto, Ontario.
Random telephone numbers were generated for the city of Toronto, and 781 respondents completed a telephone interview. Trained nonphysician interviewers conducted all interviews, which involved structured questions for diagnosing major depression. Patterns of symptom change across seasons were evaluated to establish a diagnosis of SAD according to DSM-III-R criteria.
Correcting for sex and age, the prevalence of SAD defined by DSM-III-R criteria was 2.9% (95%CI, 1.7% to 4.0%), and the overall lifetime prevalence of major depression in the sample was 26.4% (95%CI, 23.3% to 29.4%). Some subjects were contacted for a follow-up interview conducted in person; the positive predictive value for the diagnosis of major depression for the telephone interview was 100%, and the negative predictive value was 93%.
The seasonal subtype of depression represents 11% of all subjects with major depression, suggesting that SAD is a significant public health concern. The telephone interview demonstrated adequate reliability, indicating that it is appropriate for epidemiological surveys of this nature.