Researchers from the departments of cardiology and epidemiology at Emory University School of Medicine conducted a study to assess whether depression in women aged 55 and younger is associated with higher risk for coronary artery disease and adverse outcomes compared with age-matched males and older women with depression. The study included more than 3,200 patients with depression, assessed by the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-9, and with known or suspected coronary artery disease. Participants were required to undergo coronary angiography and three years of follow-up.
The results showed that each 1-point increment in symptoms of depression was associated with a 7% increased risk for coronary artery disease in women aged 55 and younger, but not aged-matched male and older female counterparts with depression. Young women with moderate to severe depression were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, die of heart disease, or require an artery-opening procedure during the follow-up compared with males and older women.
Viola Vaccarino, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and chair of epidemiology and a professor cardiology at Emory, said, "Although the risks and benefits of routine screening for depression are still unclear, our study suggests that young women may benefit for special consideration...unfortunately this age group has largely been understudied..." In March, the American Heart Association issued a scientific statement—endorsed by APA—recommending that depression be formally considered as a risk factor, like diabetes and hypertension, for coronary artery disease. “Our data are in accordance with this recommendation, but suggest that young and middle-aged women may be especially vulnerable to depression as a risk factor," Vaccarino concluded.
To read more about depression as a heart-disease risk factor, see the Psychiatric News articles, "Depression Should Be Listed as Heart Disease Risk, Says AHA Panel," and "Building a Bridge Between Cardiology, Psychiatry."
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