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Public Awareness about the Relationship Between Heart Disease and Depression

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8 Aug 2012

A few months ago I published a research project in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly (Springer) which examined the public awareness of the connection between depression and physical health: specifically heart disease. It appeared online November 2011 and it will be soon be published in the regular edition of this journal.
The following is an abstract of this article. I welcome any comments or questions.

Public Awareness About the Connection Between Depression and Physical Health: Specifically Heart Disease

Michael Blumenfield, Julianne K. Suojanen, Charlene Weiss


The medical community continues to acknowledge a connection between depression and physical health, for example, cardiac disease. This study addresses public awareness about depression’s effects on physical health, the relationship between cardiac disease and depression, and preferred sources of health information, in an effort to inform future health education programs. A survey, administered to 816 adults ages 40-69, focused on public awareness, perception of depression as an illness, its impact on other illnesses such as heart disease, and sources of health information. (1) Eighty-three percent (83%) of respondents felt depression was an illness; (2) a slightly higher percentage (85.8%) felt a mental disorder, like depression, could affect the course of a physical illness; (3) respondents’ awareness of links between depression and cardiac disease ranged from 29.8% (awareness of depression as a risk factor for coronary artery disease) to 31.6% (awareness that depression can increase the risk of having a second heart attack); (4) print media were the most frequently cited sources of health information (22.7%); and (5) more highly educated respondents were more informed about depression than respondents with less education. Although a majority of respondents (1) recognized depression as an illness (2) thought it could complicate recovery from a physical illness, less than a third of them were aware of links between cardiac disease and depression. Demographic groups differed in their preferred sources of health information, especially across educational levels, demonstrating a need for targeted health educational outreach in efforts to reach a variety of populations.

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