How patients think about their heart attack may impact likelihood of depression, study finds

An increased risk for depression among heart attack survivors has been well established; what has been less evident are the causes. A recent study from the University of Luxembourg is shedding new light on the question, reports ScienceDaily

Researchers interviewed cardiac patients at three points in time within six months after their first heart attack. Participants were asked about their physical health, employment, family, depression levels and ways of coping (e.g., rumination, threat minimization or finding meaning in religion). They found the way patients think about their heart attack–for example, if they continue to view the event as a serious threat to their health–increases the likelihood that patients will develop depression. 

“These results can be used to help patients to have a more positive outlook on life, even after such a dramatic and life-threatening event,” said Prof. [Claus Vögele, Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Luxembourg and lead author]. “Psychological interventions in the immediate time after the infarct, for instance during the first two weeks, may protect patients from developing depression, and thereby contribute to a smooth recovery.”

The publication, “Cardiac Threat Appraisal and Depression after First Myocardial Infarction,” appeared in Frontiers in Psychology.

Learn more about Polaris-CV, a Web-based system normed for patients with heart disease that helps health care providers detect and monitor depression and anxiety. Read about Albert Einstein Cardiac Rehab Center’s experience using Polaris-CV (pdf).