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Background: Depression is known to be associated with cardiovascular diseases (CVD). This population-based cohort study aimed to determine the association between depression of varying severity and risk for CVD and to study the effect of concomitant anxious distress on this association.

Methods: We utilized data from a longitudinal cohort study of mental health, work and relations among adults (20–64 years), with a total of 10,443 individuals. Depression and anxious distress were assessed using psychiatric rating scales and defined according to DSM-5. Outcomes were register-based and self-reported cardiovascular diseases.

Findings: Overall increased odds ratios of 1.5 to 2.6 were seen for the different severity levels of depression, with the highest adjusted OR for moderate depression (OR 2.1 (95% CI 1.3, 3.5). Similar odds ratios were seen for sub-groups of CVD: ischemic/hypertensive heart disease and stroke, 2.4 (95% CI 1.4, 3.9) and OR 2.1 (95%CI 1.2, 3.8) respectively. Depression with anxious distress as a specifier of severity showed OR of 2.1 (95% CI 1.5, 2.9) for CVD.

Conclusion: This study found that severity level of depression seems to be of significance for increased risk of CVD among depressed persons, although not in a dose-response manner which might be obscured due to treatment of depression. Further, we found a higher risk of CVD among depressed individuals with symptoms of anxious distress.


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