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HomeMedicineCardiologyLooking at depression and anxiety in cardiac rehab patients

Looking at depression and anxiety in cardiac rehab patients

Researchers studied the prevalence and effects of moderate depression, anxiety, and stress in cardiac rehab patients.

Heart disease is still the main cause of mortality around the world. Depression and anxiety are oftentimes present in heart disease patients. The presence of mental illness can have a negative impact on physiological health, especially during cardiac rehabilitation. Depression and anxiety, a projection of negative emotions, may also affect a patient’s ability to handle his or her physiological symptoms during cardiac rehabilitation.

In a study published by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers studied Australian participants, aged 18 years or older, who were enrolled in cardiac rehab programs. Participants’ health and demographic information were collected. All participants had psychological and physiological tests done, as well as the completion of a questionnaire. Participants disclosed medications they were on.

According to the results of the study, 18%, 28%, and 13% of participants had moderate to severe depression. Participants who had moderate depressive symptoms were more likely to drop out of cardiac rehab than participants who had mild depressive symptoms.

The study found that if a participant had moderate anxiety and/or stress, he/she had a higher risk of developing depression. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, which can in turn lead to mismanagement of cardiac symptoms, resulting in a poorer quality of life. On the same note, if a participant experienced moderate depression and stress, he/she was more likely to develop moderate anxiety. Some aspects of poor cardiac health increased anxiety within participants (chest pain, device installation, etc.). This can be a concern, because if a cardiac patient starts to feel a lot of anxiety, he/she may stop physical activity altogether. In addition, increased anxiety can lead to the fear of having another cardiac episode.

Half of participants with moderate to severe depression did not show positive psychological improvements. When participants had a better quality of life, their anxiety risk was reduced – aging also decreased this risk. According to the researchers,  increased functioning decreased the risk of depression.

Effective screening for predictors of depression, anxiety, and stress could be helpful in treating cardiac patients. Further research is needed to find ways to best treat cardiac rehab patients with depression, anxiety, and stress.


Written by Laura Laroche, HBASc, Medical Writer



Rao, A, et al. “The prevalence and impact of depression and anxiety in cardiac rehabilitation: A longitudinal cohort study”. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology 10 Oct. 2019. Online.

One in five cardiac rehab patients are depressed, anxious, or stressed. 2019, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-10/esoc-oif100719.php, assessed 10 Oct. 2019.


Image by LMoonlight from Pixabay



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