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Studies delves deeper into link between depression, stroke

Last week, our blog discussed how May is Mental Health Month, an annual event held to promote understanding, debunk misconceptions, and fight the stigma faced by millions here in the U.S. and around the world.

In keeping with this theme, today's post will address how a recent study expanded the link between depression, a mental condition that affects close to 15 million adults here in the U.S. every year, and strokes.

While previous research has definitively linked depression with an elevated stroke risk, the study in question, performed by Harvard researchers, sought to take things one step further to determine whether this risk persists even if depressive symptoms decrease.

In order to accomplish this, the researchers conducted two interviews two years apart with 16,718 men and women whose average age was 65 and none of whom had previously suffered a stroke.

Using a time-tested analysis, they were able to divide the interview subjects into three categories: those who have consistently low or nonexistent depressive symptoms, those who saw an onset or remission of depressive symptoms between the two interviews, and those who had consistently high depressive symptoms.

Two years after conducting the interviews, they found that 1,192 strokes had occurred.

While it came as little shock that those people with consistently low depressive symptoms were found to have no elevated stroke risk and those with consistently high depressive symptoms were found to have a stroke risk that was more than double, they also found that those whose depressive symptoms subsided between the interviews were also at a higher risk of stroke.

In fact, the difference in stroke risk among this subset and those with consistently high depressive symptoms was actually found to be statistically insignificant.

It should be noted, however, the researchers did not address whether treatment for depression would have any effect on this stroke risk.

The important thing to glean from this study for the purposes of our blog is that those who suffer from severe depression and/or have endured a massive stroke may be able to secure Social Security disability benefits to help them make ends meet. A skilled legal professional can explain how this is possible and initiate the necessary actions.

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