Risk of Depression Rises After Stroke

By Janice Wood
March 16th, 2023
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.
Risk of Depression Rises After Stroke

A new study has found that during the first three months after a stroke, the risk of depression was eight times higher.

The study, published by JAMA Psychiatry, notes that more than 10 million people had a stroke in 2013, while more than 30 million people worldwide live with a stroke diagnosis.

For the new study, a team of researchers led by Merete Osler, M.D., D.M.Sc., Ph.D., of Copenhagen University in Denmark, used data from seven Danish nationwide registers to examine how risk and risk factors for depression differ between patients who had suffered a stroke and those who had not had a stroke. The researchers also looked at how depression influences death.

Among the 135,417 patients with stroke, 34,346 — or 25.4 percent — had a diagnosis of depression within two years after the stroke. More than half of the cases of depression — 17,690 — appeared in the first three months after the stroke, according to the study’s findings.

In the 145,499 people without stroke, 11,330 — 7.8 percent — had a depression diagnosis within two years after entering the study. Less than a quarter of the cases — 2,449 — appeared within the first three months, according to the results.

Major risk factors for depression for all the patients in the study were:

  • Older age;
  • Being female;
  • Living alone;
  • Educational Attainment;
  • Diabetes;
  • A high level of of somatic comorbidity;
  • A history of depression; and
  • Stroke severity (in patients with stroke).

In all patients — those who suffered a stroke and those who didn’t — the depressed individuals had an increased risk of death from all causes. This was especially true for patients with new onset depression, the researchers noted.

Study limitations include a definition of depression that was based on psychiatric diagnoses and filling of antidepressant prescriptions, the researchers noted, adding most cases were defined by filling antidepressants, which can be prescribed for various diseases.

“Depression is common in patients with stroke during the first year after diagnosis, and those with prior depression or severe stroke are especially at risk,” the researchers concluded in the study. “Because a large number of deaths can be attributable to depression after stroke, clinicians should be aware of this risk.”

Source: The JAMA Network Journals

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.