This site is intended for health professionals only

Heart attack patients less often prescribed antidepressants for depression

Patients with heart attacks should be asked how they feel, according to a researcher who found they are more depressed but are less often prescribed antidepressants than people who have not had one.

Dr Barbro Kjellstrom, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm looked at 805 patients who had a heart attack and another 805 who had not experienced one.

Fourteen per cent of the patients who had heart attacks had symptoms of depression, compared with 7% of the control group.

However just 16% of the heart attack patients with depression had been given antidepressants, compared with 42% of the depressed controls.

Kjellstrom said: “We know that stress and depression are big risk factors for heart attack and we confirmed this connection in our study. But what was new and astonishing was that heart attack patients less often receive treatment for depression.”

Her research was presented at the EuroHeartCare conference in Athens, Greece.

Researchers also found that 42% of the heart attack patients had stressful work, compared with 32% of the control group. They also said that they had less control at work.

Kjellstrom said: “It appears that patients who have had a heart attack did not seek help for their depression, or if they did, their symptoms were not accurately recognised and managed.

“An important take home message is for clinicians to ask patients 'how do you feel?' and listen to the reply, rather than zoning out because they are stressed themselves.”

She commented that there is no treatment for stress and the “optimal goal” was to prevent stress, exhaustion and depression.