Previous studies suggest that the short-term outcome in severely depressed elderly in The Netherlands is worse compared to other studies in the Western world. The present study examines the long-term prognosis of hospitalized elderly patients with major depressive disorder and possible predictors of outcome. One hundred and five elderly inpatients with unipolar major depression, admitted by regional mental health services in a geographically delimited area, were evaluated six to eight years after index episode by trained residents using a structured diagnostic interview (C.I.D.I.) The GP was interviewed using a standard questionnaire. At follow-up 40% of the original sample had died. Of the survivors 33% had fared well, 24% had a relapsing course, 22% had residual symptoms, 11% were continuously ill, and 9% had probable dementia. With respect to prognostic factors, personality disorder predicted a worse outcome. All patients with a major depressive disorder at follow-up received specialised care and used antidepressants. None of the patients received ECT. The mortality rate in clinically treated elderly with major depressive disorder is high. Among survivors the long-term prognosis in The Netherlands is comparable with other studies to date. The presence of a personality disorder predicts worse outcome. Though the accessibility of services seems to be good, more vigorous treatment was not applied.