Scientist looked at the effect of significant stress and deep depression on almost 4,500 patients that suffered from heart disease called the combination the “psychosocial perfect storm.”
“The combination of high stress and high depression symptoms may be particularly harmful for adults with heart disease during an early vulnerability period,” said lead researcher Carmela Alcantara, an associate research scientist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “We found that those who reported both high stress and high depression were 48 percent more likely than those with low stress and low depression to have another heart attack or die in the first 2.5 years of follow-up,” she said.
Individuals dealing with both stress and depression had an increased likelihood to report recent crying spells, and felt they faced overwhelming difficulties which were beyond their own abilities to handle.
Behavioral treatments, in addition to therapy and exercise, might reduce their odds for death or heart attack in the near future, Alcantara said.
Considered separately, high stress or depression alone did not increase the risk of another heart attack or death, she said.
In the study, researchers examined data from 4,487 heart disease patients, aged 45 and older, who had enrolled in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study.
Participants were interviewed in their homes and asked how often during the past week they felt depressed, lonely or sad, or had crying spells.
A follow-up lasting six years on average revealed that 1,337 participants died or had a heart attack, the researchers found. The risk was 48 percent higher for those with stress and serious depression than those not feeling emotionally drained, but only for the first 2.5 years.
“Depression and stress have previously been found to be associated with the development of heart disease as well as fatal and nonfatal heart attacks and strokes in men and women already suffering from heart disease,” he said.
The findings were published in the journal Circulation.