Psychological therapies for depression and cardiovascular risk: evidence from national healthcare records in England

Eur Heart J. 2023 May 7;44(18):1650-1662. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehad188.


Aims: People with depression are up to 72% more at risk to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) in their lifetime. Evidence-based psychotherapies are first-line interventions for the treatment of depression and are delivered nationally in England through the National Health Service via the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) primary care programme. It is currently unknown whether positive therapy outcomes may be associated with cardiovascular risk reduction. This study aimed to examine the association between psychotherapy outcomes for depression and incident CVD.

Methods and results: A cohort of 636 955 individuals who have completed a course of psychotherapy was built from linked electronic healthcare record databases of national coverage in England: the national IAPT database, the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) database, and the HES-ONS (Office of National Statistics) mortality database. Multivariable Cox models adjusting for clinical and demographic covariates were run to estimate the association between reliable improvement from depression and the risk of subsequent incidence of cardiovascular events. After a median follow-up of 3.1 years, reliable improvement from depression symptoms was associated with a lower risk of new onset of any CVD [hazard ratio (HR): 0.88, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.86, 0.89], coronary heart disease (HR: 0.89, 95% CI: 0.86, 0.92), stroke (HR: 0.88, 95% CI: 0.83, 0.94), and all-cause mortality (HR: 0.81, 95% CI: 0.78, 0.84). This association was stronger in the under 60 compared with the over 60 for all outcomes. Results were confirmed in sensitivity analyses.

Conclusion: Management of depression through psychological interventions may be associated with reduced risk of CVD. More research is needed to understand the causality of these associations.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Coronary heart disease; Depression; Electronic healthcare records; Evidence-base psychological therapies; Primary healthcare; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / therapy
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Heart Disease Risk Factors
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • State Medicine