OBJECTIVE: Later age at onset of depression appears to be a risk factor for early recurrence. Therefore, the authors examined the 2-year outcomes of elderly patients with first-episode major depression following discontinuation of their maintenance antidepressant medication. METHOD: The study group consisted of 21 elderly patients who had recovered from a first lifetime episode of major depression. They had taken maintenance antidepressant medication for 2 years and had not had a relapse or recurrence during that time. The antidepressant was then withdrawn, and patients were followed for another 2 years or until recurrence, whichever occurred first. RESULTS: The cumulative probability of suffering a recurrence of major depression was 61%. Eleven of the 12 patients who suffered a recurrence restarted the antidepressant, and 10 responded. CONCLUSIONS: Elderly patients with first-episode major depression were at high risk of recurrence following discontinuation of maintenance antidepressant medication. However, the vast majority of patients who experienced a recurrence responded to reinstated treatment.