Study Explores Links Between Depression, Stroke And Age In Women
May 17, 2013

Study Explores Links Between Depression, Stroke And Age In Women

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

In yet another recent study highlighting the connection between mental and physical health, two researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia found that depressed women in their 40s and 50s are more than twice as likely to have a stroke as women who are not depressed.

The team included 12 years worth of data in their study, which was recently published in“¯Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Our findings contribute to the currently limited evidence on potential age differences in the association between depression and stroke, and suggest that the effect of depression may be even stronger in younger women," the Australian researchers wrote.

While previous research has found links between stroke and depression, only partial evidence has hinted at the role played by age in this connection.

In their study, Caroline Jackson and Gita Mishra used data from Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, which included over 10,000 stroke-free women between the ages of 47 to 52. The participants were surveyed every 3 years from 1998 to 2010.

Within each survey, the women were asked whether they were taking antidepressants and were assessed for depression using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale. The participants were classified as depressed if they said they had taken an antidepressant in the previous four weeks or if they received a 10 or higher on the depression assessment.

At each survey interval, about 25 percent of the women were found to have depression and during the course of the entire study about 1.7 percent experienced their first stroke.

After adjusting for several factors, including age, socioeconomic status, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, smoking, alcohol use and physical activity, the researchers found that depressed women in the study were 2.4 times more likely to have a stroke than women who weren't depressed.

"The association appears to be only partially accounted for by traditional stroke risk factors, highlighting the possible role of other novel risk factors, or biological mechanisms, such as the proposed neuroendocrine and immunological/inflammatory pathways," the report said.

"Although the absolute risk of stroke is low in mid-aged women, depression does appear to have a large adverse effect on stroke risk in this age group," Caroline Jackson, an epidemiologist at the University of Queensland, told HealthDay.

According to Jackson, this is the first large study to look at depression and stroke in this age group of women. While another long-term study — the Nurses' Health Study — found a 30 percent greater risk of stroke among depressed women, the average age was 14 years older than the University of Queensland study.

Jackson said that both research efforts, "reinforce the need for adequate targeted prevention, detection and control of poor mental health among mid-aged women.”

The Queensland researchers concluded in their report that much more research needs to be done on the relationships between age, depression and stroke.

"Further research investigating age differences within the same cohort is needed, since the identification of such differences will have important implications for policy and practice," they wrote. "In particular, this will inform the development of effective targeted prevention and intervention approaches."