Women are twice as likely as men to be depressed in the hospital after having an acute heart attack, but this does not translate into a higher death rate for women, new research shows.
This was true even though depression after a heart attack is a key risk factor for death from cardiac causes within a year after discharge for both women and men.
When Nancy Frasure-Smith, PhD, from McGill University , and her colleagues at the Montreal Heart Institute, studied 896 heart attack patients, they found that about half of the 283 women and one-fourth of the men experienced at least mild to moderate symptoms of depression. However, the dramatically higher prevalence of depression among women did not result in significantly higher death rates. Instead, depressed women died at approximately the same rate as the depressed men.
Frasure-Smith and her colleagues report in the January-February issue of Psychosomatic Medicine that the year after hospitalization remains an important health hurdle for both women and men, with in-hospital depression a major risk factor: 8.3 percent of depressed women died of cardiac-related causes during that period, compared to 2.7 percent of women who were not depressed. For men, the rates were 7 percent and 2.4 percent.
"As the evidence accumulates that depressed post-heart attack patients are at increased risk for recurring cardiac events, it becomes more and more imperative to provide safe and effective treatment strategies," says Frasure-Smith.
"In fact, with current cardiac treatment, the prognosis after heart attack is quite good, even for depressed patients. But we need to remember that beyond its impact on prognosis, depression results in considerable suffering for patients and families."
Not only did depression have a similar impact on survival for both women and men, but the effects of other risk factors related to depression, such as a history of hypertension or diabetes, were also almost identical for both sexes.
The research was supported by grants from the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Health and Research Development Programme of Canada, the Joint Research Grant Program in Mental Health of the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec, the Quebec Council of Social Research, the Medical Research Council of Canada, and the Montreal Heart Institute Research Fund.
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