Background: The prevalence of depression in people with coronary heart disease (CHD) is high but little is known about patients' own perceptions and experiences of this. This study aimed to explore (i) primary care (PC) patients' perceptions of links between their physical condition and mental health, (ii) their experiences of living with depression and CHD and (iii) their own self-help strategies and attitudes to current PC interventions for depression.
Method: Qualitative study using consecutive sampling, in-depth interviews and thematic analysis using a process of constant comparison. 30 participants from the UPBEAT-UK cohort study, with CHD and symptoms of depression. All participants were registered on the General Practitioner (GP) primary care, coronary register.
Results: A personal and social story of loss underpinned participants' accounts of their lives, both before and after their experience of having CHD. This theme included two interrelated domains: interpersonal loss and loss centred upon health/control issues. Strong links were made between CHD and depression by men who felt emasculated by CHD. Weaker links were made by participants who had experienced distressing life events such as divorce and bereavement or were living with additional chronic health conditions (i.e. multimorbidity). Participants also felt 'depressed' by the 'medicalisation' of their lives, loneliness and the experience of ageing and ill health. Just under half the sample had consulted their GP about their low mood and participants were somewhat ambivalent about accessing primary care interventions for depression believing the GP would not be able to help them with complex health and social issues. Talking therapies and interventions providing the opportunity for social interaction, support and exercise, such as Cardiac Rehabilitation, were thought to be helpful whereas anti-depressants were not favoured.
Conclusions: The experiences and needs of patients with CHD and depression are diverse and include psycho-social issues involving interpersonal and health/control losses. In view of the varying social and health needs of patients with CHD and depression the adoption of a holistic, case management approach to care is recommended together with personalised support providing the opportunity for patients to develop and achieve life and health goals, where appropriate.