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J Clin Epidemiol. 1996 Jul;49(7):809-15.

The incidence of depression in new users of beta-blockers and selected antihypertensives.

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  • 1Department of Health Science, San Jose State University, California 95192-0052, USA.


We studied the occurrence of depression in new users of propranolol (n = 704), other beta-blockers (n = 587), angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (n = 976), calcium channel blockers (n = 742), and diuretics (n = 773) in the Harvard Community Health Plan population. The period of the study was from April 1988 to June 1991. All study subjects were followed for new or newly recurrent depression for up to 6 months after receiving their first study prescription. Case status was confirmed by blinded medical record review. We found 10 cases of depression that met DSM-III-R criteria ("major depression") and an additional 18 cases that had one or more symptoms consistent with depression ("minor depression"). Rates of major depression in users of beta-blockers and users of non-beta-blocker study drugs were 5.8 per 1000 person-years of exposure and 9.6 per 1000 person-years, respectively. None of the cases of major depression was propranolol associated. Rates of major or minor depression (combined) in users of beta-blockers and users of non-beta-blockers were 20.2 per 1000 person-years and 25.2 per 1000 person-years, respectively. The age- and sex-adjusted relative risk of major or minor depression associated with the use of beta-blockers compared to non-beta-blockers was 0.8 (95% CI, 0.3-1.9). The relative risk associated with propranolol compared to non-beta-blockers was also 0.8 (95% CI, 0.1-2.7). Therefore, depression occurred no more frequently in beta-blocker users than in other members of the study base.

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