People with heart disease who are also depressed have a higher risk of dying following a heart attack or of having another heart attack. It's estimated that one in four heart patients experiences either depression or low social support after a heart attack. And patients in either of these situations have a three to four times higher risk of death.
An NIH study evaluated the effects of treating patients who are depressed and who lack social support soon after a heart attack. Treatment consisted primarily of counseling, with severely depressed people receiving antidepressants as needed. Patients who received treatment did feel better and were able to improve their psychological and social functioning, enjoying a better quality of life. However, the treatment did not lower the risk of dying or having another heart attack.
The researchers noted their disappointment in failing to reduce heart attacks and deaths and suggested that perhaps depression should be treated in these patients before they have a heart attack. They also said that additional research is under way to determine the relationship between depression and heart function.
Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Study finds no reduction in deaths or heart attacks in heart disease patients treated for depression and low social support. NIH News Release, Nov. 12, 2001.