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The severity of depression, the presence and intensity of suicidal feelings, and the outcome of depressive illness treated in general practice were studied. The results suggest that a consideration of the relatively good outcome at 16 to 18 weeks alone is misleading. At least one in six new patients is suffering from a depression of moderately severe intensity and a similar proportion experience suicidal ideas that are persistent and require active rejection. A sample of patients with chronic depression had only a slightly smaller morbidity. The presence of moderately severe symptoms of depression in both groups of patients has important implications for treatment.