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Spouses of Heart Attack Victims More Likely to Use Anti-Depressants

Spouses of Heart Attack Victims More Likely to Use Anti-Depressants

A new Danish study suggests that spouses of people who have had heart attacks are more likely to use antidepressants and to feel the effects of stress and anxiety quite heavily. The study showed that after a year, those people who lost a spouse to a heart attack were three times more likely to start using antidepressants.

The study also showed that even if the partner survived the heart attack, spouses were about 17% more likely to be on antidepressants than a year before the incident. The BBC notes that men were more susceptible to symptoms of depression than female spouses.

The study involved looking at national registries in Denmark. The researchers studied 16,506 spouses of people who died from a sudden heart attack, and 44,566 spouses of people who survived a sudden heart attack. They then examined the medical records of the spouses right after the event and through the year after the event in order to ascertain how many spouses started taking antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.

The study is the first to analyze the way spouses respond to sudden heart attacks and the results show a shockingly high level of emotional disruption in spouses. Researchers speculate the mental and emotional health of supportive family members is particularly fragile because of the unexpected nature of most heart attacks.

Although the study only looks at the Danish population, the results are particularly pertinent in the United States. CBS News points out that about 785,000 people have a coronary attack each year in the United States alone. Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

A study conducted earlier this year showed that many heart attack survivors are susceptible to PTSD. The combination of PTSD and surviving a heart attack put those victims at greater risk of death, that study found. This newest study also adds weight to the reality that family members also suffer physical and emotional trauma from coronary attacks.

Dr. Emil Fosbol from the Duke University Medical Center told the BBC:

This is a major public health issue for which there seems to be very little awareness among doctors and policy makers.

The most important finding of this study is that the system needs to consider the care needs for the spouses too, not only when a patient dies from a [sudden heart attack], but also when the patient is ‘just admitted’ to hospital [after a sudden heart attack] and survives.

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17 comments

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11:02AM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

oh no.

11:02AM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

sad

11:47AM PDT on Aug 27, 2012

sad.

11:47AM PDT on Aug 27, 2012

sad.

7:02PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

In the days when antidepressants weren't prescribed for everything, which now includes physical pain, we had to either just "deal" with death of a loved one, or have the money to see a psychologist. A broken heart - whether it's from the loss of a spouse, a child, a divorce, or the loss of a pet - can cause physical damage to the human heart; this has now been proved. But instead of getting injured & depressed people into groups where they can talk about their feelings, it's just easier to offer a pill. I can see where some people will benefit from a short-term prescription, but some people never, ever get off of them. These are dangerous drugs, and whomever is taking an antidepressant should be monitored regularly, and then eased off as soon as possible. No one really understands how they work or why they work, but over a long period of time they can become destructive, especially if people drink alcohol with them.

6:38AM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

It's always important to remember the needs of caregivers--including those whose duties begin with death.

2:06AM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

"A new Danish study suggests that spouses of people who have had heart attacks are more likely to use antidepressants and to feel the effects of stress and anxiety quite heavily"
Compared to who? Spouses of partners with other diseases? Spouses with heatlthy partners?

"The study is the first to analyze the way spouses respond to sudden heart attacks and the results show a shockingly high level of emotional disruption in spouses."
Shockingly? Seriously? It's shocking that seeing your loved ones dying or getting seriously sick, is extremely emotionally hard for their family?? Ookaaay...

3:26PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

This information doesn't surprise me in the least. Your spouse in either at deaths door or has passed and that is quite a lot of stress to go through. Thanks Sarah for the information.

10:08AM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

You mean if your significant other dies you are not happy? Astounding! I bet this study cost billions.

8:25AM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

Title of this is poorly constructed. Makes it sound as if the spouse uses anti-depressants there is a higher incidence of the other spouse suffering a heart attack.

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