How Does Mental Health Impact Women's Heart Health?

Heart Lung Circ. 2021 Jan;30(1):59-68. doi: 10.1016/j.hlc.2020.05.111. Epub 2020 Jul 5.


From adolescence until old age, women are more vulnerable to common mental disorders (CMDs; depression and anxiety) than men at all stages of the life course. By middle age, women who have clinical depression are at twice the risk of having an incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those without. This has important implications for the way we prevent, identify and treat both CMDs and coronary heart disease in women. In this paper, we discuss the various genetic, biological, ethnic/racial, and psychological pathways by which women's vulnerability to CMDs elevate their CVD risk and recovery from a cardiac event. We review the evidence from trials that have, to date, failed to show that treating depression can reduce or delay the onset or recurrence of CVD events, especially for female patients. We discuss the value of lifestyle-based therapies for treating depression, to which women may be more responsive, and finish by discussing how population-based approaches including risk factor assessment could be tailored to consider these factors.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Depression anxiety; Sex differences; Women.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Women's Health*