“Depression can double risk of stroke,” reported Time, CNN, NPR and many other news outlets, covering a study by Harvard School of Public Health researchers in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The researchers analyzed records of some 16,000 older adults who participated in the Health and Retirement Study between 1998 and 2010, which included asking participants every two years about their depressive symptoms, history of stroke, and stroke risks factors.
“Nearly 2,000 strokes among the participants were reported over the course of the study,” stated Psychiatric News. “The researchers found that individuals who displayed high levels of depressive symptoms during two consecutive interviews (over a four-year period) were more than twice as likely to experience a stroke during the subsequent two years compared with participants who had low depressive symptoms during two consecutive interviews. Even people who had depressive symptoms at the first interview but not the second had a 66 percent higher stroke risk.”
The researchers had no specific explanation for the findings, but suggested that depression may cause physiological changes involving cumulative vascular damage over time. Therefore, the lead author said in a press release, “clinicians should seek to identify and treat depressive symptoms as close to onset as possible, before harmful effects on stroke risk start to accumulate.”
The researchers did not analyze the participants’ histories of psychiatric drug use. Previous studies reported by Mad in America have found that antidepressant use seems to increase heart disease in the elderly independent of depressive symptoms.
Gilsanz, Paola, Stefan Walter, Eric J. Tchetgen Tchetgen, Kristen K. Patton, J. Robin Moon, Benjamin D. Capistrant, Jessica R. Marden, Laura D. Kubzansky, Ichiro Kawachi, and M. Maria Glymour. “Changes in Depressive Symptoms and Incidence of First Stroke Among Middle‐Aged and Older US Adults.” Journal of the American Heart Association 4, no. 5 (May 28, 2015): e001923. doi:10.1161/JAHA.115.001923. (Abstract)
Study Finds Long-Term Depression Increases Risk for Stroke in Older Adults (Psychiatric News Alert, May 15, 2015)