Risk for cardiovascular diseases in men as a result of depression is just as great as that from high cholesterol levels and obesity, according to a report by researchers from Helmholtz Zentrum München.

The World Health Organisation estimates 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression. But mental states are not all that is affected; depression can also compromise the body.

Karl-Heinz Ladwig, group leader at the Institute of Epidemiology II at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, says:

“Meanwhile there is little doubt that depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. The question now is: What is the relationship between depression and other risk factors like tobacco smoke, high cholesterol levels, obesity or hypertension - how big a role does each factor play?"

Ladwig is professor of psychosomatic medicine at TUM’s Klinikum rechts der Isar as well as scientist of DZHK.

Depression Cardiovascular Disease Risks

To answer this question, Ladwig and his team analyzed data from 3,428 male patients between the ages of 45 and 74 years and observed their development over a period of ten years.

“The work is based on a prospective population-based data set from the MONICA/KORA study that, with a total term of up to 25 years, is one of the few large studies in Europe that allows such an analysis,"

says the statistician Dr. Jens Baumert of Helmholtz Zentrum München, who was also involved in the publication.

The scientists compared the impact of depression with the four major risk factors.

“Our investigation shows that the risk of a fatal cardiovascular disease due to depression is almost as great as that due to elevated cholesterol levels or obesity,” Ladwig summarizes.

High Blood Pressure And Smoking

The results show that only high blood pressure and smoking are associated with a greater risk. Viewed across the population, depression accounts for roughly 15 percent of the cardiovascular deaths.

“That is comparable to the other risk factors, such as hypercholesterolemia, obesity and smoking,” Ladwig says.

These factors cause 8.4 to 21.4 percent of cardiovascular deaths. Study leader Ladwig concludes:

“Our data show that depression has a medium effect size within the range of major, non-congenital risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. In high risk patients, the diagnostic investigation of co-morbid depression should be standard. This could be registered with simple means."

Ladwig, Karl-Heinz et al. Room for depressed and exhausted mood as a risk predictor for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality beyond the contribution of the classical somatic risk factors in men Atherosclerosis DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2016.12.003

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