Women aged 55 and younger are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or die young if they are moderately or severely depressed, a US study has found.
Depression more than doubled the chances of women in this age group having a heart attack, dying from heart disease or any other cause, or undergoing artery-opening surgery, said researchers.
Lead scientist Dr Amit Shah, from Emory University in Atlanta, said: “All people, and especially younger women, need to take depression very seriously.
“Depression itself is a reason to take action, but knowing that it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and death should motivate people to seek help,” he said.
“Providers need to ask more questions,” he added. “They need to be aware that young women are especially vulnerable to depression, and that depression may increase the risk to their heart.”
The researchers assessed 3,237 people with suspected heart disease, 34% of whom were women.
All were due to undergo coronary angiography, a diagnostic test for diseased arteries supplying blood to the heart.
“All people, and especially younger women, need to take depression very seriously”
The results, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, showed no link between symptoms of depression and heart disease in men or older women.
But in women aged 55 and younger, each one-point increase in depression symptoms was associated with a 7% increased likelihood of heart disease.
Younger women were 2.17 times more likely to suffer a heart attack, die from heart disease, or require artery-opening surgery if they had moderate or severe depression.
They were also 2.45 times at greater risk of dying from any cause if they were depressed.
Co-author Dr Viola Vaccarino, also from Emory University, said: “Although the risks and benefits of routine screening for depression are still unclear, our study suggests that young women may benefit for special consideration.
“Unfortunately, this group has largely been understudied before,” she said.