Stroke survivors, even if they escape severe mental impairment, are less likely to be independent if they are depressed, older, or have other medical problems, say researchers. They analyzed data from 367 stroke survivors, average age 62, who had no severe language or thinking skill impairments. Of those patients, 174 were diagnosed with depression one month after their stroke.
The patients' levels of independence were rated using a 0 to 5 scale, with 5 being the most severely disabled and dependent. Three months after their stroke, 20 percent of the patients scored 3 or higher, meaning they were considered dependent.
Stroke survivors who were severely depressed, older and had other health problems were more likely to be dependent than those who were younger, free of other health problems or not depressed. The study appears in the March 15 print issue of the journal Neurology.
"Post-stroke depression is a common problem. About 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year and one-third of survivors develop depression as a result," study author Arlene Schmid, of the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Indiana University in Indianapolis, said in a journal news release.
The researchers did not examine whether improvement in depression helped stroke survivors recover their independence after three months. "Even if the treatment and improvement of post-stroke depression does not directly influence recovery, it is extremely important for depression to be identified and treated since it is associated with other health and social problems," Schmid said.