Depression Affects Almost One-Fifth of Stroke Survivors

Although 17 percent are affected, few take antidepressants

THURSDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Although almost one-fifth of stroke survivors experience depression, few take antidepressant medication, according to a report published online Sept. 28 in Stroke.

Seana L. Paul, B.Sc., of the National Stroke Research Institute in Victoria, Australia, and colleagues conducted a study of 978 patients who survived a stroke, of whom 441 (45 percent) were still alive five years later. The mean age of the patients was 74 years and 49 percent were female.

Although 17 percent of the patients were depressed, only 22 percent of them were taking antidepressants, which were effective in 72 percent of cases.

"The majority of those taking antidepressant medication were not depressed. This provides indirect evidence that antidepressants are effective in treating depression in stroke patients," Paul explains in a statement. She cites physicians' unwillingness to prescribe treatments due to uncertainty about their efficacy and safety among stroke patients, as well as the condition going undiagnosed, as possible reasons for the low level of medication use.

"We know that stroke survivors who are not depressed live longer, higher-quality lives than those who are depressed. Consequently, educating physicians, stroke survivors and their families about the risk of depression after stroke may increase identification of depression and lead to improved treatment," she states.

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