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. 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 develops depression as a result.
To see whether depression and other factors affected function and dependence after a stroke, researchers in America analysed data from 367 stroke survivors, average age 62 years, who had no severe language or thinking skill impairments. The study group comprised patients suffering from ischemic stroke that caused by lack of blood supply to the brain, in contrast to haemorrhagic stroke caused by bleeding. 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, and were considered dependent.
It was found that 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 researchers did not examine whether improvement in depression helped stroke survivors recover their independence after three months.
The study concluded that 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.