Updated 22 May 2015

Depression worsens heart failure in black patients

Treating depression could be key to improving heart failure issues in black patients, according to a new study.


Depression seems to increase the risk of hospitalisation and death in black heart failure patients, a new study finds.

Symptoms of depression

Researchers assessed depression symptoms – such as difficulty with concentration, a lack of energy and feelings of hopelessness or helplessness – in nearly 750 black patients with heart failure.

About one-third of them had symptoms of depression. The researchers then compared outcomes to more than 1,400 white patients with heart failure.

Read: Depression

Even moderate depressive symptoms appeared to boost the risk of hospitalisation or death for black patients, according to the study published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

The researchers also found that black patients whose depression symptoms worsened over three months were a third more likely to die or be hospitalised than those with stable depression symptoms.

Improving patient outcomes

All of this means that "identifying and treating even modest symptoms of depression in black patients with heart failure could help to improve patient outcomes," study author Dr. Robert Mentz, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, said in a journal news release.

However, the researchers found that only 22 percent of black patients with depression had been prescribed antidepressant drugs, compared with 42 percent of white patients with heart failure.

Read: Causes of depression

"These results suggest the potential importance of screening all heart failure patients with simple questions about their mood and depression at every health appointment, so their depression can be identified and treated," Mentz said.

Although the study found an association between depression and worse outcomes in black heart failure patients, it wasn't designed to prove that depression directly led to the worse outcomes.

6 million have heart failure

About 6 million Americans have heart failure, according to the researchers.

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Image: Depressed senior black man from Shutterstock

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Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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