Depression in heart failure: biobehavioral mechanisms

Heart Fail Clin. 2011 Jan;7(1):23-38. doi: 10.1016/j.hfc.2010.08.011.


The etiology, predictive value, and biobehavioral aspects of depression in heart failure (HF) are described in this article. Clinically elevated levels of depressive symptoms are present in approximately 1 out of 5 patients with HF. Depression is associated with poor quality of life and a greater than 2-fold risk of clinical HF progression and mortality. The biobehavioral mechanisms accounting for these adverse outcomes include biological processes (elevated neurohormones, autonomic nervous system dysregulation, and inflammation) and adverse health behaviors (physical inactivity, medication nonadherence, poor dietary control, and smoking). Depression often remains undetected because of its partial overlap with HF-related symptoms and lack of systematic screening. Behavioral and pharmacologic antidepressive interventions commonly result in statistically significant but clinically modest improvements in depression and quality of life in HF, but not consistently better clinical HF or cardiovascular disease outcomes. Documentation of the biobehavioral pathways by which depression affects HF progression will be important to identify potential targets for novel integrative behavioral and pharmacologic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Disease Progression
  • Heart Failure / complications
  • Heart Failure / epidemiology
  • Heart Failure / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology