Harvard Mental Health Letter

In brief: Screening patients with heart disease for depression

In brief

Screening patients with heart disease for depression

In September 2008, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended that clinicians routinely screen patients with heart disease for depression. Among other reasons, the experts noted that in a large survey, about 9% of patients with coronary artery disease suffered from major depression in a 12-month period, compared with about 5% of people who do not have a chronic medical illness. The American Psychiatric Association has endorsed the recommendations.

The AHA recommends that clinicians ask two questions when they see patients with heart disease:

  • In the past two weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?

  • In the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless?

If a patient with heart disease answers "yes" to either question, then the AHA recommends further evaluation or a referral to a mental health professional.

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