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Symptoms of depression linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke

Published: 21 December 2020

People who experience symptoms of depression are more likely to develop heart disease or suffer a stroke than those who have good mental health, according to research supported by the NIHR.

Researchers at the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre analysed the health records of over half a million people, with no history of heart and circulatory disease, who were enrolled into two different studies: UK Biobank (2006-2010) and the Emerging Risk Factor Collaboration (1960-2008). 

When they first joined the studies, participants were given a score based on questionnaires assessing their mood and any symptoms of depression that they had experienced over the previous one to two weeks. These scores were used to divide participants into five groups based on increasing severity of symptoms.

Now, over 10 years later, researchers have found that participants in the highest scoring group, and with most severe symptoms of depression, were more likely to have since developed heart disease or to have had a stroke, compared to people with the lowest scores.

The UK BioBank data indicate that an extra seven cases of heart disease and five strokes per 10,000 people would be expected in one year for those with higher symptoms of depression, with similar results from participants in the Emerging Risk Factor Collaboration study. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association

Professor Emanuele Di Angelantonio, researcher at the University of Cambridge, said “This is the largest evidence to date that feelings related to depression are associated with a person’s chance of having heart disease or stroke in the future.”

This study was also supported by the British Heart Foundation, NIHR and Health Data Research UK (HDRUK).

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said “Our mental and physical health go hand-in-hand. It’s clear from this research that our hearts and minds are more connected than we previously thought. By exploring this link further, we may find new ways of helping to improve our heart health”.

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Symptoms of depression linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke

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