Objective: To determine the relationship between increasing depressive symptoms and cardiovascular events or mortality.
Design: Cohort analytic study of data from randomized placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial of antihypertensive therapy. Depressive symptoms were assessed semi-annually with the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale during an average follow-up of 4.5 years.
Setting: Ambulatory patients in 16 clinical centers of the Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program.
Patients: Generally healthy men and women aged 60 years or older randomized to active antihypertensive drug therapy or placebo who were 70% white and 53% women and had follow-up CES-D scores and no outcome events during the first 6 months (N=4367).
Main outcome measures: All-cause mortality, fatal or nonfatal stroke, or myocardial infarction.
Results: Baseline depressive symptoms were not related to subsequent events; however, an increase in depression was prognostic. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses with the CES-D scale as a time-dependent variable, controlling for multiple covariates, indicated a 25% increased risk of death per 5-unit increase in the CES-D score (relative risk [RR], 1.25;95% confidence interval [CI], 1.15 to 1.36). The RR for stroke or myocardial infarction was 1.18(95%CI,1.08 to 1.30). Increase in CES-D score was an independent predictor in both placebo and active drug groups, and it was strongest as a risk factor for stroke among women (RR,1.29;95%CI,1.07 to 1.34).
Conclusions: Among elderly persons, a significant and substantial excess risk of death and stroke or myocardial infarction was associated with an increase in depressive symptoms over time, which may be a marker for subsequent major disease events and warrants the attention of physicians to such mood changes. However, further studies of casual pathways are needed before wide-spread screening for depression in clinical practice is to be recommended.