Depression as a Risk Factor for Incident Ischemic Stroke Among HIV-Positive Veterans in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study

J Am Heart Assoc. 2021 Jul 6;10(13):e017637. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.119.017637. Epub 2021 Jun 25.


Background HIV infection and depression are each associated with increased ischemic stroke risk. Whether depression is a risk factor for stroke within the HIV population is unknown. Methods and Results We analyzed data on 106 333 (33 528 HIV-positive; 72 805 HIV-negative) people who were free of baseline cardiovascular disease from an observational cohort of HIV-positive people and matched uninfected veterans in care from April 1, 2003 through December 31, 2014. International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes from medical records were used to determine baseline depression and incident stroke. Depression occurred in 19.5% of HIV-positive people. After a median of 9.2 years of follow-up, stroke rates were highest among people with both HIV and depression and lowest among those with neither condition. In Cox proportional hazard models, depression was associated with an increased risk of stroke for HIV-positive people after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and cerebrovascular risk factors (hazard ratio [HR], 1.18; 95% CI: 1.03-1.34; 0.014). The depression-stroke relationship was attenuated by alcohol use disorders, cocaine use, and baseline antidepressant use, and unaffected by combined antiretroviral therapy use or individual antiretroviral agents. A numerically higher HR of depression on stroke was found among those younger than 60 years. Conclusions Depression is associated with an increased risk of stroke among HIV-positive people after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, traditional cerebrovascular risk factors, and HIV-specific factors. Alcohol use disorders, cocaine use, and baseline antidepressant use accounted for some of the observed stroke risk. Depression may be a novel, independent risk factor for ischemic stroke in HIV, particularly among younger people.

Keywords: HIV; combined antiretroviral therapy; depression; ischemic stroke; stroke risk.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*