Background: Adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) patients face unique medical and social challenges that may contribute to psychological difficulties. The goals of this study were to identify predictors of symptoms of depression and anxiety and evaluate the prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders among North American ACHD patients.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, consecutive patients were recruited from two ACHD outpatient clinics. All patients completed self-report psychosocial measures and a subset was randomly selected to participate in structured clinical interviews. Linear regression models were used to predict symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Results: A total of 280 patients (mean age=32 years; 52% female) completed self-report measures. Sixty percent had defects of moderate complexity and 31% had defects of great complexity. Significant predictors of depressive symptoms were loneliness (p<0.001), perceived health status (p<0.001), and fear of negative evaluation (p=0.02). Predictors of anxiety symptoms were loneliness (p<0.001) and fear of negative evaluation (p<0.001). Disease severity and functional class did not predict mood or anxiety symptoms. Fifty percent of interviewed patients (29/58) met diagnostic criteria for at least one lifetime mood or anxiety disorder, of whom 39% had never received any mental health treatment.
Conclusions: The results confirm an increased risk and under-treatment of mood and anxiety disorders in ACHD patients. Social adjustment and patient-perceived health status were more predictive of depression and anxiety than medical variables. These factors are modifiable and therefore a potential focus of intervention.