Depression May Increase Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke In Older Adults

Depression may be a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Depression and its symptoms, which increase as people age, have been linked to heart disease and stroke in both middle-aged and older adults. However, whether depression and its symptoms are risk factors for heart disease and stroke has been unclear.

To learn more about how depression and its symptoms might affect heart disease and stroke, Renaud Péquignot, MD, MPH, from the Paris Cardiovascular Research Center, Paris Descartes University, and the Hôpitaux de Saint-Maurice in France and colleagues studied 7313 older adults (36.6% men) of ages 73.8 ± 5.4 years selected from the electoral rolls of 3 large French cities between 1999 and 2001. At the start of the study, none of the participants had a history of heart disease, stroke, or dementia.

At the beginning of the study, the researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with the participants. Interviews were conducted again at 2 years, 4 years, and 7 years after the initial interview. The researchers also tested the participants’ mental health status, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, and asked them questions about their medications and medical history. The researchers also measured depressive symptoms with the 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. A score of ≥16 was defined as a high level of depressive symptoms.

When the study began, nearly 30% of women and 15% of men (23% of all participants total) had high levels of depressive symptoms. During the course of the study, the researchers found that about 40% of those with high levels of depressive symptoms “recovered,” while an equal number developed new depressive symptoms at each follow-up interview. During all of the interviews during the study, fewer than 10% of participants were taking medications for depression.

The researchers found that adults 65 years and older who had high levels of depression on one, two, three, or four occasions had 15%, 32%, 52%, and 75% greater risk, respectively, of experiencing heart disease or stroke during the 10 years of the study.

The researchers concluded that depression could be a risk factor for heart disease or stroke, and suggested that physicians pay close attention to depressive symptoms in older adults.


Péquignot R, Dufouil C, Prugger C, et al. High Level of Depressive Symptoms at Repeated Study Visits and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke over 10 Years in Older Adults: The Three-City Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016; doi:10.1111/jgs.13872.