Your Spouse’s Stroke Could Increase Your Depression Risk

2 min read

April 22, 2024 -- The spouses of people who have strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure are more likely to experience depression than people whose spouses didn’t have those health problems, a new study shows. 

Published in JAMA Network Open, researchers for the study examined the records of 277,142 married couples enrolled in the Japan Health Insurance Association program between April 2015 and March 2022. Researchers compared the records of couples in which one spouse experienced stroke, heart failure, or heart attack with a control group in which neither member of a couple reported these health problems.

The study said 95% of the people reporting cardiovascular events were male, and the couples’ average age was around 58.

Spouses of people who had cardiovascular events had a 13% to 14% higher risk of depression than spouses of people who didn’t have cardiovascular events, the researchers found. There was a higher risk of depression in couples in which one member had a stroke or heart failure than in couples in which a heart attack happened.

There was only “a modestly higher risk” for depression when the cardiovascular event required hospitalization of a spouse, the study said.

“In this nationwide cohort study of matched couples, a spouse’s onset of CVD (cardiovascular disease) was associated with an increased risk of an individual’s depression,” the study concluded. “These findings highlight the importance of preventive care for mental health disorders in individuals whose spouses experience incident CVD.”

Spouses had depression because of lack of sleep, being forced to miss work, financial pressures, and less exercise. The study showed a “need for comprehensive preventive care for individuals’ mental health after their spouses’ onset of CVD.”