Depression increases mortality and morbidity in acute life-threatening medical illness

J Psychosom Res. 1990;34(6):651-7. doi: 10.1016/0022-3999(90)90109-h.


The presence of depression in consecutive admissions with life-threatening illness was assessed using the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). The 211 patients had one of four conditions, myocardial infarction (N = 100), subarachnoid haemorrhage (N = 41), pulmonary embolism (N = 40), and acute upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage (N = 30). Depression was measured using both the standard MADRS, and a modified version excluding somatic items which might be influenced by the underlying illness. The patients were also assessed for severity of illness and cognitive dysfunction. The results showed that immediately following a life-threatening illness approximately 34% of the patients were depressed, using the modified scale, but that the depressed group did not have a more severe physical illness. However, the depressed patients had a significantly poorer outcome over the 28 days following admission, with 47% of the depressed patients dying or having life-threatening complications, as opposed to 10% of the non-depressed group. This study demonstrates that the psychological state of an individual can affect their individual risk of mortality following physical illness.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cause of Death*
  • Depressive Disorder / mortality*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / mortality*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / mortality*
  • Myocardial Infarction / psychology
  • Pulmonary Embolism / mortality*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Sick Role*
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / mortality*
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / psychology