Depression leads to more than heartache

Depression significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in both sexes. But the effect of depression is more apparent in women, according to a recent study by the University Cardiology Clinic at the Hippocrateio Hospital conducted by C. Chrysochoou, D. Panayiotakos and C. Pitsavos. «In women,» says Toutouzas, «depression increases the risk by 93 percent, in men by 58 percent. This may be explained by various factors, such as the special role of women in the family, loneliness as children grow up and leave home, difficulty in finding work – factors that affect women with greater frequency. This disparity in the effect on women is reversed, however, when social level and marital status are considered in addition to depression. «It has been observed that divorced and widowed men run a higher risk of coronary episodes than women in the same position. «A few decades ago we used to think of coronary disease as the disease of prosperity, since epidemiological studies showed that its frequency and the risk factors were greater in the higher socio-economic classes. In Western-type societies, this correlation has changed and cardiovascular disease has become more frequent among the lower socio-economic strata. According to our study, the risk is 82 present higher among people with a low educational level and 65 percent higher among those with an average level of education than it is among those with a university education. «It seems that a low educational level is one of the elements which determine social class. It is related to smoking, physical exercise, income and depression. People with a low educational level have no protection against coronary disease and there is a greater need to inform them about better results in the field of prevention. «A study of ours (Cardio 2000) showed that exposure to passive smoking is linked to increased risk – 47 percent more for men and 56 percent more for women. An estimated one in four passive smokers will have a coronary episode because of their exposure to smoke in the environment.»