Is alexithymia a risk factor for major depression, personality disorder, or alcohol use disorders? A prospective population-based study.J Psychosom Res. 2010 Mar; 68(3):269-73.JP
Disagreements concerning the stability of alexithymia and its ability to predict subsequent psychiatric disorders prevail. The aim of this 7-year follow-up study was to examine whether alexithymia predicts subsequent major depression, personality disorder, or alcohol use disorders in a population-based sample.
The four-phase Kuopio Depression Study (KUDEP) was conducted in the eastern part of Central Finland. The study population (aged 25-64, n=2050) was randomly selected from the National Population Register. Data were collected in 1998, 1999, and 2001. In 2005, a subsample (n=333, 43 were excluded) of the 3-year follow-up population (1998-2001) was gathered and their diagnoses of mental disorders were confirmed by the Structure Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I (SCID-I). Alexithymia was measured using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) and depressive symptoms using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-21). For both of these measures, two groups were formed based on the median of their sum score (summing the 1998, 1999, and 2001 scores). Logistic regression analyses were performed.
BDI sum scores, but not those of TAS, were associated with subsequent major depressive disorder, personality disorder, and alcohol use disorders in 2005. The BDI sum scores explained 35.7% of the variation in concurrent TAS sum scores.
Alexithymia did not predict diagnoses of major depressive disorder, personality disorder, or alcohol use disorders. Alexithymia was closely linked to concurrent depressive symptoms. Thus, depressive symptoms may act as a mediator between alexithymia and psychiatric morbidity.