Depression Increases Death Risk After Heart Disease Diagnosis

Older man sitting on bed and looking out windowPeople with depression are about twice as likely to die after being diagnosed with coronary heart disease (CHD) than those without depression, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session. The study also found higher rates of depression among those with CHD than those in the general population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for most demographic groups in the United States. It kills about 610,000 people each year, accounting for one in four deaths. Coronary heart disease, which results from plaque buildup in the arteries, is the most common form of heart disease and kills 370,000 Americans each year.

Depression: Significant Predictor of Heart Disease Death

The study gathered data from close to 25,000 Intermountain Health System patients. Participants had a history of heart attack, stable angina, or unstable angina. These conditions block blood flow to the heart and are often fatal. The records spanned almost a decade following a diagnosis of coronary heart disease.

About 15% of participants were diagnosed with depression in the decade following their CHD diagnosis—a figure significantly higher than the nationwide average of 7.5-10%. Half of participants diagnosed with depression died during the study, compared to 38% of those without a depression diagnosis.

Even after adjusting for other factors linked to death due to CHD—such as age, gender, chest pain, other illnesses, or heart attack—depression remained the strongest predictor of death following a CHD diagnosis. Overall, depression doubled the risk of death in the 10 years following a CHD diagnosis.

Importance of Screening and Treatment for Depression

The study did not weigh the effects of depression treatment on the risk of death, so it is unclear if psychotherapy or medication could reduce the risk of death from CHD. The study’s authors say their research points to the importance of depression screening for people with heart disease so they can receive appropriate mental health treatment.

The World Health Organization reports depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression, though often debilitating, is treatable with the right combination of psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and pharmacological treatments.


  1. Depression doubles risk of death after heart attack, angina. (2017, March 8). Retrieved from
  2. Depression. (n.d.). World Health Organization. Retrieved from
  3. Heart disease facts. (2015, August 10). Retrieved from

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  • Julie


    March 30th, 2017 at 12:56 PM

    It is possible that for those who are already depressed getting this kind of news can be even more depressing for them and they could lose some of their will to live.

  • Krista


    March 31st, 2017 at 12:37 PM

    I could be way off base but my suspicions tell me that an older person who is depressed who receives any kind of significant bad news will be more likely to die. I would even take it a bit further and say that depression in one’s life could easily shorten the life expectancy. It just seems like when you are fighting a mental health battle such as this there could be situations where you become so run down physically as well and that eventually takes its toll on you.

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