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Pessimists Face Tough Recovery From Stroke

They're five times more likely to suffer depression after brain attack

THURSDAY, Oct. 3, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're a pessimist, here's some bad news for you to dwell on.

Pessimists are almost five times more likely to develop depression after surviving a stroke, says a Dutch study in the October issue of Stroke.

"Our study found that post-stroke depression is not only caused by damage to the brain tissue, but also depends on one's general tendency to react to distressing life events by experiencing emotions such as anger, anxiety and sadness," says lead author Dr. Ivo Aben.

He did the research while he was a doctoral student at the Institute of Brain and Behavior at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Depression is common among stroke survivors and can slow recovery.

This study included 190 people recovering from a first stroke. The people were assessed for symptoms of depression one month after the stroke and then three, six, nine and 12 months later. They also filled out questionnaires asking them about their personality traits, including the tendency to have negative mood states -- called neuroticism.

One year after the stroke, researchers found that 38.7 percent of all the stroke survivors in the study were depressed. The people with high neuroticism scores were 4.6 times more likely to have post-stroke depression than those with low neuroticism scores. The effect was stronger in men than in women.

Neuroticism was the only personality trait -- the others included extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openess to new experiences -- that increased the chances of post-stroke depression, the study says.

More information

Learn more about stroke at the American Stroke Association.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Oct. 3, 2002
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