Depression May Up Women's Stroke Risk

Illustration for article titled Depression May Up Women's Stroke Risk

In news that can only be called depressing, a new study suggests that depressed women have an elevated risk of stroke. And women who take antidepressants apparently have an even higher risk.

According to USA Today, a study of over 80,000 women found that those with a history of depression had a 29% higher stroke risk than those without. And women who were on antidepressants had a 39% higher risk. The study authors say there's no evidence to indicate that the medications actually cause strokes — rather, women who take them may simply suffer from more severe depression than those who don't. They also note that the study results shouldn't keep any women from taking antidepressants.

Depression has a number of physical effects, and it's not a surprise that it can have an impact on cardiovascular health — study authors note that the mental illness has been connected to stroke risk factors from inactivity to diabetes. Some of these connections may be behavioral — depressed people may find themselves unable to exercise, for instance. But troubles of the mind may also impact the body directly, in ways that aren't yet fully understood. It's certainly upsetting to know that a disease that's so painful in its own right is also linked to other dangerous conditions. But this should be a reminder to doubters that depression is a real and serious illness, and that the distinction between physical and mental ailments is not nearly as clear-cut as we often assume.


Depressed Women Have Higher Risk Of Stroke [USA Today]

Image via Sebastian Kaulitzki/

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>But troubles of the mind may also impact the body directly, in ways that aren't yet fully understood.

Um? Like strokes, these mystical "troubles of the mind" are also physical neurological disorders. This news isn't exactly shocking.

Additionally, please note that this is yet another large, epidemiological study that has absolutely no controls and makes and no claim that depression causes strokes or that antidepressants cause strokes. It merely shows a correlation. The arrow of causation could go in the other direction - women with predisposition to stroke are likely to be depressed - and most likely goes through another variable entirely: the fact that risk of cardiovascular disease is highly correlated with low physical activity, which is also linked to depression.