(HealthDay News) – In middle-aged women, depression is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, even after adjustment for lifestyle and physiological variables, according to a study published online May 16 in Stroke.

Caroline A. Jackson, PhD, and Gita D. Mishra, PhD, from the University of Queensland in Herston, Australia examined the effect of depression on stroke incidence in a cohort of 10,547 women (aged 47–52 years), without a history of stroke, participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, who were surveyed every three years from 1998–2010. The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale (shortened version) and antidepressant use in the past month were used to define depression.

The researchers found that 24% of participants had depression at each survey and 177 strokes occurred during follow-up. Depression correlated with a significantly increased likelihood of stroke (odds ratio, 2.41). This association was reduced after adjustment for age, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and physiological factors (odds ratio, 1.94). The correlations were robust to sensitivity analyses that addressed methodological issues.

“Our findings contribute to the currently limited evidence on potential age differences in the association between depression and stroke, and suggest that the effect of depression may be even stronger in younger women,” the authors write. “Depression appears to operate only partially through known conventional stroke risk factors, suggesting that other mechanisms may be important.”

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