Although the relation between stressful life events (SLEs) and risk of major depressive disorder is well established, important questions remain about the effects of stress on the course of geriatric depression. Our objectives were (1) to examine how baseline stress and change in stress is associated with course of geriatric depression and (2) to test whether polymorphisms of serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) and catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT Val158Met) genes moderate this relation. Two-hundred and sixteen depressed subjects aged 60 years or older were categorized by remission status (Montgomery-Asberg depression rating scale≤6) at 6 and 12 months. At 6 months, greater baseline numbers of self-reported negative and total SLEs and greater baseline perceived stress severity were associated with lower odds of remission. At 12 months, only baseline perceived stress predicted remission. When we examined change in stress, 12-month decrease in negative SLEs and level of perceived stress were associated with improved odds of 12-month remission. When genotype data were included, COMT Val158Met genotype did not influence these relations. However, when compared with 5-HTTLPR L/L homozygotes, S allele carriers with greater baseline numbers of negative SLEs and with greater decrease in negative SLEs were more likely to remit at 12 months. This study demonstrates that baseline SLEs and perceived stress severity may influence the 12-month course of geriatric depression. Moreover, changes in these stress measures over time correlate with depression outcomes. 5-HTTLPR S carriers appear to be more susceptible to both the effects of enduring stress and the benefit of interval stress reduction.