Purpose: Depression following major cardiac events is associated with higher mortality, but little is known about whether this can be reduced through treatment including cardiac rehabilitation and exercise training. We evaluated the impact of cardiac rehabilitation on depression and its associated mortality in coronary patients.
Patients and methods: We evaluated 522 consecutive coronary patients (381 men, 141 women; aged 64+/-10 years) enrolled in cardiac rehabilitation from January 2000 to July 2005 and a control group of 179 patients not completing rehabilitation. Depressive symptoms were assessed by questionnaire at baseline and following rehabilitation, and mortality was evaluated after a mean follow-up of 1296+/-551 days.
Results: Prevalence of depressive symptoms decreased 63% following rehabilitation, from 17% to 6% (P <.0001). Depressed patients following rehabilitation had an over 4-fold higher mortality than nondepressed patients (22% vs 5%, P=.0004). Depressed patients who completed rehabilitation had a 73% lower mortality (8% vs 30%; P=.0005) compared with control depressed subjects who did not complete rehabilitation. Reductions in depressive symptoms and its associated mortality were related to improvements in fitness; however, similar reductions were noted in those with either modest or marked increases in exercise capacity.
Conclusion: In patients following major coronary events, cardiac rehabilitation is associated with both reductions in depressive symptoms and the excess mortality associated with it. Moreover, only mild improvements in levels of fitness appear to be needed to produce these benefits on depressive symptoms and its associated mortality.