Change in Depression as a Precursor of Cardiovascular Events

Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD; William B. Applegate, MD; Kenneth Berge, MD; Chee Jen Chang, PhD; Barry R. Davis, MD, PhD; Richard Grimm Jr, MD, PhD; John Kostis, MD; Sara Pressel, MS; Eleanor Schron, RN, MS
Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(5):553-561. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440050111012.
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Objective:  To determine the relationship between increasing depressive symptoms and cardiovascular events or mortality.

Design:  Cohort analytic study of data from randomized placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial of antihypertensive therapy. Depressive symptoms were assessed semiannually with the Center for Epidemiological Studies— Depression (CES-D) scale during an average follow-up of 4.5 years.

Setting:  Ambulatory patients in 16 clinical centers of the Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program.

Patients:  Generally healthy men and women aged 60 years or older randomized to active antihypertensive drug therapy or placebo who were 79% white and 53% women and had follow-up CES-D scores and no outcome events during the first 6 months (N=4367).

Main Outcome Measures:  All-cause mortality, fatal or nonfatal stroke, or myocardial infarction. Results: Baseline depressive symptoms were not related to subsequent events; however, an increase in depression was prognostic. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses with the CES-D scale as a time-dependent variable, controlling for multiple covariates, indicated a 25% increased risk of death per 5-unit increase in the CES-D score (relative risk [RR], 1.25; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.15 to 1.36). The RR for stroke or myocardial infarction was 1.18 (95% CI, 1.08 to 1.30). Increase in CES-D score was an independent predictor in both placebo and active drug groups, and it was strongest as a risk factor for stroke among women (RR, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.07 to 1.34).

Conclusions:  Among elderly persons, a significant and substantial excess risk of death and stroke or myocardial infarction was associated with an increase in depressive symptoms over time, which may be a marker for subsequent major disease events and warrants the attention of physicians to such mood changes. However, further studies of causal pathways are needed before widespread screening for depression in clinical practice is to be recommended.(Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:553-561)


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