Depression Could Increase the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation can be defined as a heart rhythm disorder that is responsible for 20% to 30% of all strokes. This disorder is also one of the leading causes of untimely deaths in women.

Depression and Atrial Fibrillation

According to studies, almost 120,000 people are being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation every year, and a majority of them have experienced the following signs and symptoms:

  • Palpitation
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

What is Atrial Fibrillation

In atrial fibrillation, the two upper chambers or atria of the heart begin to beat irregularly or erratically, and out of sync with the ventricles (the two lower chambers of the heart). In due course, this condition can lead to the formation of blood clots in the heart, which may subsequently circulate to other organs in the body and inhibit blood flow, thus leading to stroke and sudden death.

Several causes have been recognized for the chances of developing atrial fibrillation, like viral infections, sinus syndrome, stress, sleep apnea, abnormal heart valves, exposure to stimulants (alcohol and caffeine), and high blood pressure. Recent studies have demonstrated that there is also another contributing factor — depression.

The Link Between Depression and Atrial Fibrillation

Top sources in the field, like the American Heart Association and the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, have published preliminary research reports showing that depression is closely associated with atrial fibrillation. The study1 published by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology was taken into consideration and research was subsequently carried out to examine the association of antidepressants and depression with atrial fibrillation in patients. The research was performed on the Danish population over a period of 13 years between 2000 and 2013. Before and after starting the treatment for depression, the risk of atrial fibrillation was thoroughly assessed.

It was noticed that in patients suffering from depression and before they began to take antidepressants, atrial fibrillation was 7.65 times higher and was also more frequent. Moreover, it was found that patients taking antidepressants had an almost 3.18 times higher risk of developing this condition during the initial month of their treatment. However, the relationship slowly reduced thereafter to about 1.11 fold by 12 months and 1.37 fold by 6 months.


It was thus concluded that individuals suffering from depression have a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation, unless treatment is carried out immediately. Moreover, antidepressant drugs are not associated with the development of this disorder, contrary to what was assumed by many people. Individuals should visit their physician for a full check-up and seek appropriate treatment for depression to reduce their risk of atrial fibrillation.


1. Fenger-Grøn, M., Vestergaard, M., Pedersen, H. S., Frost, L., Parner, E. T., Ribe, A. R., & Davydow, D. S. (2019). Depression, antidepressants, and the risk of non-valvular atrial fibrillation: A nationwide Danish matched cohort study. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 26(2), 187–195.

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Last updated: Jun 7, 2019 at 5:24 AM


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