Recent studies of patients with affective disorders have Found that there are biological differences between inpatients and outpatients. Concerned by these findings, we compared individuals admitted to our inpatient and outpatient affective disorders clinical research center who met criteria for major depression. We hypothesized that inpatients would be more severely ill, more suicidal, more functionally impaired, and have more co-morbid disorders and higher ratings of depression and mood state dysfunction. The demographic profiles, lifetime co-morbid Axis I diagnoses, consumption histories, symptom profiles, global assessment of functioning, and severity of current stressors (Axis IV) were compared and contrasted for the two groups. Inpatients had more severe current psychosocial stressors, lower current levels of functioning, increased lifetime co-morbid Axis I diagnoses, and increased rates of psychiatric hospitalizations, however, they did not have higher depression symptom ratings. In conclusion, inpatients and outpatients differed significantly in the severity of their stressors, coping abilities and history of previous hospitalizations, but not in most demographic variables or their Current symptoms of depression.