New study: Treating depression, low social supports does not reduce heart patients deaths, heart attacks

CHAPEL HILL -- Treating depressed patients -- or those who lack the social support provided by family and friends -- with counseling and possibly psychotropic drugs soon after a heart attack apparently doesnt lower their risk of death or of having another attack.

Thats the conclusion University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists and colleagues have drawn after completing a first-of-its-kind study of patients with heart disease.

Treatment does benefit patients by reducing their depression and boosting their social support levels, however, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute-sponsored research.

Our findings were a little disappointing because we hoped to have good news on this issue for patients, said Dr. Diane Catellier of the UNC School of Public Health. Still, studies with negative findings are just as important a part of science as studies that turn out positively since they help bring us closer to the truth.

Catellier is a research assistant professor of biostatistics and principal investigator for the studys coordinating center, based at UNCs Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center. She and colleagues from across the country presented their results recently at the American Heart Associations Scientific Sessions conference in Anaheim, Calif. Dr. James D. Hosking, research associate professor of biostatistics at UNC, also was instrumental in the work.

The Enhancing Recovery in Coronary Heart Disease Patients Study (ENRICHD) was the first major effort to evaluate the effects of treating depression and low social support in heart attack patients, Catellier said.

About a quarter of such patients are either depressed or have low social supports after their attacks, she said.

Those who have either one of the risk factors face a two to four times greater risk of premature death than those who feel reasonably content and have friends and family to support their recovery.

The re

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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