Depression symptoms are associated with significantly higher use of healthcare services following a heart attack, according to a new study released today by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). With approximately 70,000 Canadians experiencing a heart attack each year, this new data may help thousands of people get the care they need and reduce hospital visits.
"While we know that the use of health services is higher for people with depression symptoms, and depression is common for people who have had a heart attack, this is one of the first studies to quantify the relationship between depression symptoms, cardiac illness severity and their effect on health service consumption," explains Dr. Paul Kurdyak, head of CAMH's Centralized Assessment, Triage and Support research program and principal investigator for this research.
Data from almost 2000 heart attack patients showed that depression symptoms alone resulted in an increase in health service consumption with a:
- Nine per cent increase in heart-related hospitalizations,
- 24 per cent increase in total re-hospitalization days, and
- 43 per cent increase in non-heart related hospitalizations visits following discharge after a heart attack.
Surprisingly, the data also showed that depression caused the greatest increase in health service use in those patients with lower cardiac illness severity, and therefore, the least need for those services. "What we're seeing is people who are clearly in distress seeking help from our healthcare system, but it may not include the right kind of help to address their distress," says Dr. Kurdyak.
While there are well-established and effective chronic cardiac care and depression intervention programs, "this data supports the need for integrating depression screening and case-management into existing cardiac care," says Dr. Kurdyak. "Integrated depression care for people who have had a heart attack can improve their quality of life and may reduce the apparent mismatch between need and service use."
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