Depression after Stroke Can Lead to Loss of Independence

Strokes are more common among the elderly than the young, and many people who suffer a stroke may also have other pre-existing health conditions. But when those same people develop depression after experiencing a stroke, their risk of becoming dependent on others is significantly increased, according to a new study. “Post-stroke depression is a common problem. About 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year and one third of survivors develop depression as a result,” said study author Arlene Schmid, PhD, OTR, with the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Indiana University in Indianapolis. “We wanted to see whether depression and other factors affected function and dependence after a stroke.”

The researchers used information from over 350 ischemic stroke survivors to conduct the study. The average age of those examined was 62, and none of the participants presented any cognitive or speech impairments at the onset of the study. Thirty days after their strokes, over one half of the participants were identified as having developed depression. They were evaluated for their dependence on others, using a numeric scale, and were again tested after 90 days. At the three month mark, nearly one fifth of the participants were identified as being dependent on others for their care.

The findings revealed that the participants with depression were at a higher risk for becoming dependent if they were older or had other pre-existing health conditions. Additionally, severely depressed participants were more likely to become dependent than younger, otherwise healthy participants. The researchers did not evaluate the effect of lessening depression on independence during the three month period. “Even if the treatment and improvement of post-stroke depression does not directly influence recovery, it is extremely important for depression to be identified and treated since it is associated with other health and social problems,” Schmid said.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • michelle

    michelle

    June 24th, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    im sure this has to do with the unnecessary over-blown fear of stroke that is prevalent…most people think and assume they cannot lead a normal life once they have suffered a stroke…they think it is gonna be the beginning of a long list of restrictions and what not…and there’s no doubt that such thinking will lead to disappointment and depression…

    so I would say awareness could help the issue to an extent.

  • Zoey

    Zoey

    June 24th, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Well obviously just the fact of having a stroke can leave a stroke victim with a sense of loss and a feeling of dependence upon others. Add to that the depression that will often follow and that could really take the wind out of someone’s sails. I mean this could have been someone living a totally normal and independent life up until this point, but more than likely having a stroke is going to take that independence away from them. It must feel like a horrible loss to have no control over this and to maybe even use the loss of this body that had served you so well for so long.

  • Gresham

    Gresham

    June 24th, 2011 at 11:45 PM

    Just go about your everyday routine and keep an eye on your health. There’s nothing to worry about. You had a stroke but you’re okay now!

  • addison

    addison

    June 25th, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    My gran was never the same after her stroke. It took away her ability to do certain things and it also took away her will to live. That was the saddest part of it all.

  • Y. Ramirez

    Y. Ramirez

    June 29th, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Heck, 62’s too young to be giving up on life. That’s very sad. A stroke can already knock more than half your brain straight out of commission. It’s no shock that depression can finish off the last of your desire for independence. You’re already sluggish and slow when a stroke happens, and depression makes you lose interest in everything. When both of those happen at the same time, it’s a double whammy.

  • June Carswell

    June Carswell

    June 29th, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    Strokes almost always have warning signs. They are there when you look closely at both your health and lifestyle. Whether patients take the steps that help them notice those or not is critical in both preventing and treating them.

    What’s really sad is so many of these strokes do not have to happen when signs like partial blockages of the carotid artery could be picked up with regular physicals and screenings.

  • calum shaw

    calum shaw

    June 29th, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    @June – Stress is one of those warning signs, and what does stress increase the risk of? Heart attack and stroke. That has recently become common knowledge, so there’s no reason for folks to miss that. Stress is also linked to depression, which is painfully obvious when it strikes.

  • LaScala

    LaScala

    July 2nd, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    @calum shaw– Most adults I know that had strokes were already dealing with mountains of complications in their daily lives. I’m honestly not surprised some will end up having to deal with depression after having a stroke. They were already on the verge of it.

  • themuse

    themuse

    July 3rd, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    @LaScala- I’m certain that much of that depression isn’t coming just from their daily lives. I’m going to point out the elephant in the room here and say patients get depressed after a stroke because they just had a possibly lifetime-debilitating stroke! Meaning anyone who has one needs to be watched carefully to make sure their condition doesn’t get worse.

  • SweetMom

    SweetMom

    September 18th, 2017 at 7:44 PM

    Wow so many comments about what people who have strokes may or may not feel. I had 3 strokes. And a seizure from the swelling on my brain. Stroke survivors cannot explain how devastating it is to have a stroke. Unexplainable. Unimaginable.

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