The negative effects of depression in young people on the health of their hearts may be stronger than previously recognized. Depression or a history of suicide attempts in people younger than 40, especially young women, markedly increases their risk for dying from heart disease, results from a nationwide study have revealed.
The results are published in the November 2011 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
"This is the first study looking at depression as a risk factor for heart disease specifically in young people," says senior author Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, chair of epidemiology at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. "We're finding that depression is a remarkable risk factor for heart disease in young people. Among women, depression appears to be more important than traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, obesity and diabetes which are not common in young women."
First author is Amit Shah, MD, a cardiology fellow at Emory University School of Medicine. The researchers analyzed data from 7,641 people between the ages of 17 and 39 who participated in the NHANES-III (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey-III), a nationwide survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics between 1988 and 1994. Deaths were tracked through 2006.
Women with depression or a history of attempted suicide had a three times higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 14 times higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease (heart attack). The corresponding figures for men were 2.4 times higher risk for cardiovascular disease and 3.5 times higher risk for ischemic heart disease.
Many previous studies of depression and heart disease included older individuals, who generally have a larger burden of heart disease risk factors and associated diseases that may confound the results.