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In Journal of affective disorders ; h5-index 79.0

BACKGROUND : This study longitudinally evaluated first-onset major depression rates during the pandemic in Italian adults without any current clinician-diagnosed psychiatric disorder and created a predictive machine learning model (MLM) to evaluate subsequent independent samples.

METHODS : An online, self-reported survey was released during two pandemic periods (May to June and September to October 2020). Provisional diagnoses of major depressive disorder (PMDD) were determined using a diagnostic algorithm based on the DSM criteria of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 to maximize specificity. Gradient-boosted decision trees and the SHapley Additive exPlanations technique created the MLM and estimated each variable's predictive contribution.

RESULTS : There were 3532 participants in the study. The final sample included 633 participants in the first wave (FW) survey and 290 in the second (SW). First-onset PMDD was found in 7.4% of FW participants and 7.2% of the SW. The final MLM, trained on the FW, displayed a sensitivity of 76.5% and a specificity of 77.8% when tested on the SW. The main factors identified in the MLM were low resilience, being an undergraduate student, being stressed by pandemic-related conditions, and low satisfaction with usual sleep before the pandemic and support from relatives. Current smoking and taking medication for medical conditions also contributed, albeit to a lesser extent.

LIMITATIONS : Small sample size; self-report assessment; data covering 2020 only.

CONCLUSIONS : Rates of first-onset PMDD among Italians during the first phases of the pandemic were considerable. Our MLM displayed a good predictive performance, suggesting potential goals for depression-preventive interventions during public health crises.

Caldirola Daniela, Daccò Silvia, Cuniberti Francesco, Grassi Massimiliano, Alciati Alessandra, Torti Tatiana, Perna Giampaolo


COVID-19, Depression, First-onset, General population, Machine learning, Predictive model