MAY 11, 2023 9:00 AM PDT

Talk Therapy May Reduce Heart Disease Risk

WRITTEN BY: Savannah Logan

The results of a recent study published in the European Heart Journal suggest that using psychotherapy to effectively manage depression may lead to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

The study included a cohort of over 636,000 participants with depression who had completed a course of psychotherapy in England. At the start of the study, participants did not have cardiovascular disease or dementia. They were followed for a median of 3.1 years, during which they were monitored for cardiovascular events and improvement in depression symptoms. Improvement in depression symptoms was defined as a reduction of 6 or more points on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, which scores patients on nine aspects of depression including little interest or pleasure in doing things, feeling down/depressed/hopeless, sleeping issues, tiredness or having little energy, appetite issues, feelings of failure, concentration troubles, slowness or restlessness, thoughts that one would be better off dead, and hurting oneself. Improvement in symptoms also required that patients had no worsening of anxiety during the study period.

After the follow-up period, those whose depression symptoms improved saw a lower risk of the development of cardiovascular disease. Compared to those whose symptoms did not improve, people with improved depression symptoms had an 11% lower risk of coronary heart disease, a 12% lower risk of stroke, a 12% lower risk of any form of cardiovascular disease, and a 19% lower risk of all-cause mortality. Overall, after talk therapy, 59% of the cohort showed improved depression symptoms while 41% did not.

One of the study’s authors noted that these results demonstrate the strong link between mental health and physical health. The lowered risks of cardiovascular disease in this study were comparable to the results of similar studies investigating low fat diets to improve cardiovascular health. Given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, improvements in depression symptoms through therapy could improve or save thousands of lives.

Sources: European Heart Journal, EurekAlert!

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Savannah (she/her) is a scientific writer specializing in cardiology at Labroots. Her background is in medical writing with significant experience in obesity, oncology, and infectious diseases. She has conducted research in microbial biophysics, optics, and education. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
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