Depression and cardiovascular disease: Mechanisms of interaction

Karen E. Joynt, David J. Whellan, Christopher M. O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

361 Scopus citations


This article explores the relationship between depression and cardiovascular disease from a mechanistic standpoint. Depression and cardiovascular disease are two of the most prevalent health problems in the United States and are the two leading causes of disability both in the United States and worldwide. Although depression is a known risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease, as well as an independent predictor of poor prognosis following a cardiac event, the mechanistic relationship between the two remains unclear. Depression is associated with changes in an individual's health status that may influence the development and course of cardiovascular disease, including noncompliance with medical recommendations, as well as the presence of cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking and hypertension. In addition, depression is associated with physiologic changes, including nervous system activation, cardiac rhythm disturbances, systemic and localized inflammation, and hypercoagulability, that negatively influence the cardiovascular system. Further, stress may be an underlying trigger that leads to the development of both depression and cardiovascular disease. This article reviews seven potential mechanisms for the relationship between depression and cardiovascular disease and presents the available evidence surrounding each mechanism. Finally, future directions for research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-261
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Depression
  • Heart rate variability
  • Inflammation
  • Platelets


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