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BACKGROUND: Severe life events are acknowledged as important etiological factors in the development of clinical disorders, including major depression. Interview methods capable of assessing context and meaning of events have demonstrated superior validity compared with checklist questionnaire methods and arguments for interview approaches have resurfaced because choosing the appropriate assessment tool provides clarity of information about gene-environment interactions in depression. Such approaches also have greater potential for understanding and treating clinical cases or for use in interventions. OBJECTIVE: (1) To argue that life events need sophisticated measurement not satisfactorily captured in checklist approaches. (2) To review life-events measures and key findings related to disorder, exemplifying depression. (3) To describe an ongoing study with a new online measure and to assess its psychometric properties and the association of life events in relation to disorder and educational outcomes. METHODS: The Computerised Life Events Assessment Record (CLEAR) is under development as a tool for online assessment of adult life events. Based on the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule interview, CLEAR seeks to assess life events to self and close others, link these to other events and difficulties, and utilize calendar-based timing, to improve upon checklist approaches. RESULTS: The CLEAR study is in the preliminary stages and its results are expected to be made available by the end of 2015. CONCLUSIONS: There is currently no sophisticated technological application of social risk factor assessment, such as life events and difficulties. CLEAR is designed to gather reliable and valid life-event data while combating the limitations of interviews (eg, time consuming and costly) and life-event checklists (eg, inability to accurately measure severity and independence of life events). The advantages of using such innovative methodology for research, clinical practice, and interventions are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


JMIR Res Protoc

Publication Date





disorder, interview, life events, online systems, stress