Taking Depression to Heart

Photo: Heart

Heart attack patients who also
suffer from depression are more
likely to be readmitted for
cardiac events and chest pains
in the future; © TAU

“Heart attack patients who also suffer from depression are more likely to be readmitted for cardiac events and chest pains in the future, and have 14 per cent more days of hospitalisation than their happier counterparts”, says researcher Vicki Myers of TAU.

Along with Doctor Yariv Gerber and other members of the Israel Study Group of First Acute Myocardial Infarction, Myers examined the association between depressive symptoms in heart attack patients and hospital admissions more than a decade after the initial attack.

“These findings have long-term ramifications”, says Myers. “Spending more time in the hospital, these patients are a massive financial burden on health services, but an investment in extra psychiatric support may have a large positive payoff.”

Most studies examining the connection between heart attack recovery and mental health have only included short term follow up, says Myers. To study the effect of depression on the long-term health of heart attack patients, the researchers used data collected from 632 heart attack patients under the age of 65 admitted to Israeli hospitals between 1992 and 1993, comparing their recoveries using follow-up data through 2005.

Although a large percentage of people who survive a heart attack will be re-admitted to the hospital at some point, people identified as at least "mildly depressed" during their first hospital stay were far more likely to be re-hospitalised later with further cardiac health problems. Patients with a higher depression score spent 14 per cent more time in the hospital than those with a low score. Data were controlled for measures of co-morbidity, including other illnesses and risk factors such as smoking and socioeconomic status.

Post-heart-attack lifestyle choices played a major role in this relationship, explains Myers. Most heart attack patients are offered rehabilitation services, and are advised to change their lifestyle to include exercise, diet, and smoking cessation programs. Depressed patients are far less likely to avail themselves of rehab services, or elect to make life changes themselves, she says. Overall, depressed patients were 20 per cent less likely to be physically active after suffering a heart attack, 26 per cent less likely to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program, and 25 per cent less likely to quit smoking.

MEDICA.de; Source: Tel Aviv University