• Age: affective episodes may occur at any age, including childhood, but tend to become more frequent in later life.

• Sex: depressive illness is diagnosed twice as often in women as in men, partly due to genuine excess, and partly due to women's more frequent GP consultation rates, which lead to higher detection. Mania has an equal sex incidence.

• Marital status: for men, rates of depressive illness are lower in the married than in the single, widowed, or divorced. For women, the protective effect of marriage is less marked. Young married women with children have high rates of depression; single women have low rates.

• Social class and occupation: community surveys find highest rates of depression among the lower socio-economic groups, but bipolar disorders referred to psychiatrists tend to come from the professional classes.

• Residential area: depression is more common in urban than rural districts.

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