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Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003 Feb;60(2):153-60.

Lifetime history of depression and carotid atherosclerosis in middle-aged women.

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  • 1University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA.



Depression is associated with clinical coronary events, but the association between history of major depression and subclinical cardiovascular disease in women is not yet known. We determined the association between lifetime history of major depression and subclinical carotid atherosclerosis in middle-aged women.


Participants included 336 healthy middle-aged women (one third African American) from 1 of the 7 sites of the Study of Women's Health Around the Nation, a prospective study of the perimenopausal transition. Psychiatric diagnoses were assessed using the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV Axis I Disorders-Non-Patient Edition. Two measures of subclinical carotid atherosclerosis were assessed using B-mode ultrasonography: plaque and intima-media thickness.


Lifetime history of major depression was associated with plaque, and substance abuse was related to intima-media thickness. Lifetime history of an anxiety disorder was not associated with either measure. After controlling for standard cardiovascular risk factors, only the association between major depression and plaque was maintained. The risk of plaque was 2-fold in women with a lifetime history of recurrent major depressive episodes relative to women with no history of depression (odds ratio = 2.30; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-4.82). Lifetime history of a single major depressive episode was not associated with plaque.


Recurrent major depressive episodes may be a risk factor for subclinical atherosclerosis. Prevention of recurrent episodes may also prevent further progression of atherosclerosis.

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