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26 March 2024

Support needed for depressed stroke survivors as incidence climbs

Researchers say more needs to be done for depressed stroke survivors as new findings show 60% of stroke survivors would experience depression within 18 years, a much higher estimation than previous studies.

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This compares to 22% of the general population experiencing depression in the same time frame.

The King's study, published today in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe, also found 90% of cases of depression occurred within five years of surviving a stroke, indicating a key time for healthcare intervention.

The findings, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Programme grant for applied research, looks at incidence of mild and severe depression in the South London Stroke Register, a cohort of 6600 survivors of stroke in the Lambeth and North Southwark boroughs.

The population was 55.4% male with a median age of 68 years. 62.5% were from a white ethnic background and 29.7% from a Black ethnic background.

While post-stroke depression is common after stroke and associated with poor functional ability and increased mortality, the study found that severe depression tended to occur earlier after stroke, had a longer duration and was quicker to recur than mild depression.

Depression is common in stroke survivors but our research shows it persists for much longer than previously thought. We know that depression can limit a stroke survivor’s mobility including simple things as walking and holding objects and can also increase the risk of death. With an aging population in the UK and an increase in the proportion of older adults, it’s essential we plan for rising healthcare demands to tackle the anticipated surge in stroke cases.

Professor Yanzhong Wang, Professor of Statistics in Population Health

Corresponding author Lu Liu, a PhD candidate with a clinical background at King’s College London, said: “Quality of life is important for stroke survivors as there is evidence depressed survivors have a reduced survival rate.

“There are many reasons why this could be, including disruptions to the survivor’s social life, reduced physical ability and inflammatory disorders observed in depressed patients.

“More clinical attention should be paid to patients with depression that is longer than one year because of the high risks of experiencing persistent depression."

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Yanzhong Wang

Professor of Statistics in Population Health