Aims: The association between antidepressant use and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains controversial, particularly in initially healthy samples. Given that antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are now prescribed not only for depression, but also for a wide range of conditions, this issue has relevance to the general population. We assessed the association between antidepressant medication use and future risk of CVD in a representative sample of community-dwelling adults without known CVD.
Methods and results: A prospective cohort study of 14 784 adults (aged 52.4 ± 11.9 years, 43.9% males) without a known history of CVD was drawn from the Scottish Health Surveys. Of these study participants, 4.9% reported the use of antidepressant medication. Incident CVD events (comprising CVD death, non-fatal myocardial infarction, coronary surgical procedures, stroke, and heart failure) over 8-year follow-up were ascertained by a linkage to national registers; a total of 1434 events were recorded. The use of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) was associated with elevated risk of CVD [multivariate-adjusted hazard ratio (HR) = 1.35, 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.03-1.77] after accounting for a range of covariates. There was a non-significant association between TCA use and coronary heart disease events (969 events, multivariate-adjusted HR = 1.24, 95% CI, 0.87-1.75). The use of SSRIs was not associated with CVD. Neither class of drug was associated with all-cause mortality risk.
Conclusion: Although replication is required, the increased risk of CVD in men and women taking TCAs was not explained by existing mental illness, which suggests that this medication is associated with an excess disease burden.