DEPRESSION is more common than you might think.
About one in five UK adults experienced some form of it in 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics.
And three in ten adults in England are diagnosed with depression any given week.
But new research has found that people who suffer from depression might be more likely to have a stroke.
They may also suffer a worse recovery afterwards.
Dr Robert P Murphy, a consultant stroke physician and the study’s author, said: “Our results show that symptoms of depression can have an impact on mental health, but also increase the risk of stroke.”
Researchers from the University of Galway asked 26,877 adults from 32 countries across Europe, Asia, North and South America, the Middle East and Africa about their cardiovascular health and whether they had felt depressed in the previous 12 months.
Their average age was 62 and about half of the participants had experienced a stroke.
Of those, 18 per cent reported symptoms of depression.
By comparison, only 14 per cent of the people who hadn’t had a stroke said they were depressed.
The researchers estimated that people who experienced symptoms of depression were 46 per cent more likely to have a stroke, compared to those with no depressive symptoms.
And the more symptoms participants had, the higher their risk of stroke.
People who reported five or more symptoms of depression had 54 per cent higher risk of experiencing the deadly medical condition.
Meanwhile, those who had one or two symptoms were only 35 per cent more likely to have a stroke than those who were not depressed.
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
You can use the FAST method – which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, Time – to identify is someone is having a stroke:
F = Face drooping – if one side of a person’s face is dropped or numb then ask them to smile, if it’s uneven, you should seek medical help.
A = Arm weakness – if one arm is weak or numb then you should ask the person to raise both arms. If one arm drifts downwards, it could signify stroke
S = Speech difficulty – if a person’s speech is slurred this could be a sign of a stroke
T = Time to call 999 – if a person has the signs above then you need to call 999
Other stroke symptoms include:
- sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- difficulty finding words
- sudden blurred vision or loss of sight
- sudden confusion, dizziness or unsteadiness
- a sudden and severe headache
- difficulty understanding what others are saying
- difficulty swallowing
Ischaemic stroke, the most common form of the condition, occurs when a blood clot prevents the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
This is typically caused by arteries becoming narrower over time.
The study’s authors added: “While people with symptoms of depression were not more likely to have more severe strokes, they were more likely to have worse outcomes one month after the stroke than those without symptoms of depression.”
Stroke Association estimates that about 100,000 Brits have strokes every year – and that the UK has 1.3 million stroke survivors.
Dr Murphy said: “Depression affects people around the world and can have a wide range of impacts across a person’s life.
“Our study provides a broad picture of depression and its link to risk of stroke by looking at a number of factors, including participants’ symptoms, life choices and antidepressant use.”
He urged physicians to look out for symptoms of depression and to use this information to guide health initiatives focused on stroke prevention.
The study’s co-lead Professor Martin O’Donnell – who teaches neurovascular medicine and is a consultant stroke physician – added that effective identification and management of depression could help reduce stroke risk.
The study was published in the journal Neurology.
It’s part of a wider project called INTERSTROKE, which has studied how alcohol, anger or stress might be tied to the medical condition.
If you do, or think you may suffer from depression, do not panic.
Help is available from your GP – they can refer you for talking therapy or counselling and can also prescribe antidepressants to help ease symptoms.
Common symptoms of depression include feeling:
- down, upset or tearful
- restless, agitated or irritable
- guilty, worthless and down on yourself
- empty and numb
- isolated and unable to relate to other people
- finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
- a sense of unreality
- no self-confidence or self-esteem
- hopeless and despairing
If you or someone you’re with is in any danger related to mental health, call 999.