Women face higher mental health challenges after cardiac arrest, study finds

Cardiac arrests affect around 350,000 people in Europe each year with less than 20% surviving an out of hospital cardiac arrest. Research from Amsterdam UMC shows that women who survive consequently have greater rates of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, both men and women are affected by negative population-wide changes in socioeconomic status as they age. Suggesting more support is necessary for those who have suffered a cardiac arrest. These results are published today in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality & Outcomes. 

We looked at many factors to determine the five-year consequences of a cardiac arrest, here we saw, most significantly, a 50% rise in antidepressant prescription in the first year among women that was not mirrored in men. This rise then tapered off to around a 20% increase in prescriptions after five years."

Robin Smits, researcher at Amsterdam Public Health

"While we need to carry out more research to understand exactly why this happens, we can already say that it shows that particularly women are not adequately supported after a cardiac arrest," adds Smits. 

The research group analyzed the five-year socioeconomic data of 1250 individuals, with an average age of 53, who had survived an out of hospital cardiac arrest in the Netherlands. Alongside the aforementioned changes in mental health, the research also saw that the employment trends that also affect the general population as they age through their 50s were also present in this group. 

"We saw significant decreases in employment rates and, consequently, earnings. Further, we also saw a change in 'primary earner status' - meaning that the member of a household who had the highest earnings frequently changed after a cardiac arrest. Suggesting that it was difficult for individuals to return to the labour market," says Smits. 

The Amsterdam UMC research group has also carried out research, together with partners from the University of Copenhagen, on the survival rates of cardiac arrest. This research published last month showed that women lived longer than men after a cardiac arrest.

"By combing these two findings, we see that the consequences of cardiac arrest differ depending on your sex. While women may be more likely to survive and live longer, they are also more likely to be affected my mental health issues after a cardiac arrest," says Smits. 

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