Treating anxiety, depression significantly impacts heart disease outcomes

March 25, 2024
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center research.

Treating anxiety and depression significantly reduced emergency room visits and rehospitalizations among people with heart disease, according to a study by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. 

“For patients hospitalized for coronary artery disease or heart failure and who had diagnoses of anxiety or depression, treatment with psychotherapy, medication or both was associated with as much as a 75% reduction in hospitalizations or emergency room visits. In some cases, there was a reduction in death,” said lead study author Philip Binkley, MD, executive vice chair of the department of internal medicine and emeritus professor of internal medicine and public health at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

Binkley said anxiety and depression are common in people with heart failure, and mental health can have a major impact on a person’s risk of other health conditions, disability and death. The study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Binkley and colleagues examined whether talk therapy and antidepressant medications improved heart outcomes. Among their findings:

  • For people who received both medication and talk therapy for anxiety or depression; the risk of hospitalization dropped 68 – 75%; the risk of being seen in the emergency department fell 67 – 74%, and the risk of death from any cause was reduced by about 67%. 
  • Talk therapy alone cut the risk of hospital readmission nearly in half (46 – 49%) and led to a similar reduction in emergency room visits (48 – 53%).
  • Medication treatment alone reduced hospital readmission by up to 58% and reduced ER visits by up to 49%.

Study details and background

  • 1,563 adults ages 22 – 64 were enrolled over a three-year period. All participants had a first hospital admission for blocked arteries or heart failure and had two or more health insurance claims for an anxiety disorder or depression.
  • 68% were women, and 81% were noted as white. All were enrolled in Ohio’s Medicaid program during the six months prior to the hospital admission. Health data was from two sources: Ohio Medicaid claims and Ohio death certificate files from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2012.
  • Participants were followed through the end of 2014 or until death or the end of Medicaid enrollment. 
  • About 23% of participants received both antidepressant medications and psychotherapy; nearly 15% received psychotherapy alone; 29% took antidepressants alone; and 33% received no mental health treatment. 
  • About 92% of participants in the study were diagnosed with anxiety and 55.5% with depression prior to hospitalization. 

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center release