Study: Depression can follow stroke, but oftentimes occurs beforehand, too
While many people suffer from depression after a stroke, a new study suggests depression often occurs beforehand and may be a warning sign.
“The study underscores why doctors need to monitor for symptoms of depression long term in people who have had strokes,” said study author Maria Blochl of the University of Munster in Germany.
For the study, Blochl and her colleagues looked at more than 10,000 adults without a history of stroke (with an average age of
65). Over about 12 years of follow-up, 425 had a stroke. These patients were compared to more than 4,200 people with similar backgrounds who did not have a stroke.
The study participants were surveyed every two years. They were asked whether they had experienced symptoms of depression in the past week, including feelings of loneliness, sadness, restless sleep or feelings that everything was difficult to accomplish.
The surveys revealed that symptoms of depression often preceded strokes and got worse afterward.
“Depression is among the most pressing problems in people who have had a stroke and it is so common it is referred to as poststroke depression,” Blochl said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. “But our study found depressive symptoms not only markedly increase after stroke, it found people already had developed some depressive symptoms before the stroke even occurred.”
In the pre-stroke assessments, 29% of people who were about to have a stroke met the criteria for probable depression, compared to 24% of those who did not have a stroke.
The findings were published online in Neurology.