Friends, Family Can Help Heart Patients Avoid Depression

November 23, 1998

Heart disease patients who have strong support from friends and family are less likely to be depressed one month after being discharged from the hospital than are patients who have weak social support, researchers report.

"The importance of these findings is magnified by the fact that both depression and social support have been shown repeatedly to predict survival in coronary artery disease patients," say Beverly H. Brummett, Ph.D., of Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, and colleagues in the November-December issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

The researchers had 506 hospitalized heart patients complete questionnaires about their current levels of social support, their symptoms of depression, and their feelings of hostility toward others, a psychological factor also associated with heart disease. One month after being discharged, the patients completed the depression questionnaire again.

Half of the patients displayed symptoms of mild to moderate depression while in the hospital and about one quarter were depressed one month later.

Brummett and her colleagues found that patients with high levels of social support showed fewer symptoms of depression than did those with low social support.

Hostility was indirectly related to symptoms of depression after hospitalization: those highest in hostility also tended to be lowest in social support, which predicted higher levels of depression.

"We found that depressive symptoms, social isolation, and hostility were interrelated, suggesting that these coronary artery disease risk factors tend to co-occur in certain segments of the population," Brummett and colleagues write. These factors may interact in such a way that they magnify the risk of heart disease in people who possess more than one.

The results also suggest there may be benefits in "interventions that decrease hostility and increase social support, in addition to direct attempts to alleviate depressive symptoms," the researchers say.
Psychosomatic Medicine is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychosomatic Society, published bimonthly. For information about the journal, contact Joel E. Dimsdale, M.D., editor-in-chief, at 619-543-5468.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health . For information about the Center contact Richard Hebert, 202-387-2829.

Center for Advancing Health

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