Study: Depression Increases Risk of Heart Failure by 40 Percent

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 5 2014 12:28 PM

Study: Depression Increases Risk of Heart Failure by 40 Percent

51913843-two-bottles-of-prozac-are-seen-on-a-pharmacy-shelf
Two bottles of Prozac are seen on a pharmacy shelf January 4, 2005 in New York City

Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

So it turns out depression can really break your heart. In a study of nearly 63,000 people in Norway researchers found that those with mild depression were 5 percent more likely to develop heart failure compared to those with no symptoms. But that number soared to 40 percent among those with moderate to severe depression. Lise Tuset Gustad, the first author of the study that was presented at the EuroHeartCare conference in Norway, simplified the study’s conclusion: “The more depressed you feel, the more you are at risk.”

The study involved gathering all types of information about the subjects, including smoking habits, body mass index, physical activity and blood pressure. Researchers also assessed depression using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, a series of questions used to detect and rank depression and anxiety.

“Depressive symptoms increase the chance of developing heart failure and the more severe the symptoms are, the greater the risk,” noted Gustad. “Depressed people have less healthy lifestyles, so our analysis adjusted for factors such as obesity and smoking that could cause both depression and heart failure.” Researchers say one of the factors that could help explain the link is stress. “Depression triggers stress hormones,” explained Gustad. “Those stress hormones also induce inflammation and atherosclerosis, which may accelerate heart diseases.” Plus, depressed people are likely to find it more difficult to follow advice that could lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.