Magazine article Science News

Depression May Play a Role in Stroke Risk

Magazine article Science News

Depression May Play a Role in Stroke Risk

Article excerpt

Feelings of hopelessness and other signs of major depression markedly raise a person's likelihood of suffering a stroke, according to a new analysis of data from a long-term study.

Over an average follow-up period of 16 years, the initial presence of symptoms of major depression raised the relative risk of incurring a stroke about as much as did a 40-point increase in systolic blood pressure, say epidemiologists Bruce S. Jonas and Michael E. Mussolino, both of the National Center for Health Statistics.

Severe depressive symptoms posed a greater statistical risk for suffering a stroke than did 13 other factors, including having a high blood concentration of cholesterol or high systolic blood pressure, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, shunning exercise, or being overweight, black, diabetic, or elderly. Being male was the only risk factor for stroke that exhibited about the same power as depression.

The relative risk of stroke rose less steeply, but still substantially, among people who cited moderate depressive symptoms, Jonas and Mussolino report in the July/August PSYCHOSOMATIC MEDICINE.

The researchers obtained data from a nationally representative sample of 6,095 individuals who took part in a study of health and nutrition. Participants, ages 25 to 74 years, first completed a medical examination and questionnaires on various topics, including mood. Four items assessed the extent to which they felt sad, downhearted, low in spirits, and hopeless to the point of wanting to give up. …

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