Long Study Ties Depression, Risk of Stroke

Article excerpt

Researchers have determined that depressed persons run a high risk of suffering a stroke, but that the risk for depressed blacks is a huge 160 percent higher than for others.

The findings come in an unusually comprehensive study of 6,095 persons whose medical and psychological histories were tracked for from 16 to 22 years. It shows that the increased stroke risk for persons evaluated as having "high levels of depression" was 73 percent higher than for those with low depression levels.

The heightened risk for those with what is considered "moderate depression" was 25 percent.

Also, the degree of risk was found to vary by race and sex. So, for instance, the heightened predisposition to stroke of depressed white men was 68 percent greater than for those with low depression levels. For white women, the figure was 52 percent - roughly a third of the risk experienced by depressed blacks. The study does not separate percentages for black men and black women.

Bruce S. Jonas, a behavioral scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did the investigation, which was funded by nine federal health agencies. It is considered significant for several reasons.

Psychologist Bernard Brucker, a University of Miami Medical School professor, explains:

"We know that emotional states have great effects on physical responses - on the immune systems, body chemistry and reaction to chronic and acute medical conditions. Linking depression to stroke fits into that general finding. It's very important because it helps us learn how to prevent catastrophic events like stroke."

And as Mr. Jones sees it, the study "tells us that reduction of depression is important for everyone. …