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Stroke Health Center

Post-Stroke Depression Threatens Independence

Severe Depression May Affect Function in Stroke Patients, Making Them More Dependent on Others for Help
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 15, 2011 -- Stroke survivors who are depressed may be more likely to be dependent on others for help, a new study suggests.

“Post-stroke depression is a common problem,” Arlene Schmid, PhD, OTR, of Indiana University, says in a news release. “We wanted to see whether depression and other factors affected function and dependence after a stroke.”

And indeed, depression did.

Stroke and Depression

The researchers examined data on 367 survivors of ischemic stroke, the type of stroke caused by a blood clot. The patients had an average age of 62, with no impairments in thinking or severe language problems.

One month after suffering strokes, 174 of the survivors were diagnosed with post-stroke depression.

The survivors’ level of independence was rated using a zero to five scale, with five representing the most severely dependent and disabled.

Three months later, 20% or 72 of the participants were considered dependent, scoring a level three or higher. But 80%, or 295 of the participants, were considered independent.

Risk for Dependency

Stroke survivors were more likely to be dependent if they were older, had other health problems, or were severely depressed, compared to patients who were younger, free of other health problems, and not depressed, the researchers say.

Stroke severity and decreased cognition were taken into consideration in the study.

Previous studies have been “inconsistent” in findings regarding an association between post-stroke depression and functional outcomes, the authors write. Depression in previous research was found to be related to functional impairment after stroke in people over 65.

This study did not provide evidence to suggest whether improvement in depression helped people recover their independence after three months’ time.

But Schmid says that “even if the treatment and improvement of post-stroke depression does not directly influence recovery, it is extremely important for depression to be identified and treated, since it is associated with other health and social problems.”

The authors call for more research to determine whether depression following a stroke is related to functional recovery in a larger and more heterogeneous group of people.

The study is published in the March 15 print issue of Neurology.

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