Women May Be More Prone to Post-Heart Attack Depression

Heart attacks among women tied to greater anxiety and depression than in men

(RxWiki News) A heart attack can be a stressful event, even to the point that it can affect mental health. This may be especially true for women, say the authors of a new study.

The study measured anxiety and depression levels of patients recovering from heart attacks and found that women were more likely to have increased levels of both.

According to the authors of the new study, which was led by Pranas Serpytis, PhD, MD, of Vilnius University Hospital in Lithuania, many heart attack patients report symptoms of depression, which can, in turn, hinder a patient's ability to heal.

To explore the mental health of patients who had recently had a myocardial infarction — a heart attack — Dr. Serpytis and team looked at 160 people admitted to a number of different health centers, including a university clinic and a cardiology center. The patients were interviewed at least a month after having a heart attack. The patients were 67 years old on average, and 63.1 percent were men.

The study authors assessed patients' mental health using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, which measures depression and anxiety on a score from 0 to 11, with a lower score (0 to 7) representing no depression or anxiety, a mid-range score (8 to 10) representing possible issues with depression or anxiety, and a higher score (11 or higher) representing definite depression or anxiety.

Dr. Serpytis and team found that 24.4 percent of the heart attack patients (39 patients) had increased depression levels.

Increased depression and anxiety levels were more common among women. The average depression score after a heart attack was 8.66 for women — compared to 6.87 for men. The average anxiety score was 7.18 for men and 8.2 for women.

The study authors also found evidence that smoking was tied to anxiety but not depression. Of the 15.6 percent of patients who were smokers, the average anxiety score was 10.16 — compared to 7.3 in nonsmokers.

Over half of the patients were men. Further research is needed to confirm the findings and better understand mental health following a heart attack, the authors noted.

The study was presented Oct. 19 at the European Society of Cardiology's Acute Cardiovascular Care Association annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Studies presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
October 16, 2014