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Over half of people with heart disease ‘experience feelings of depression’

Financial strain and uncertainty about the future are major worries

More than half of people living with heart and circulatory diseases have experienced feelings related to anxiety or depression, a survey shows.

The Picker poll of 5,000 people living with conditions such as a heart attack, stroke and heart failure found that 58% had reported feeling sad, down or depressed.

Another 59% had experienced feelings of anxiety and fear or uncertainty about the future.

Nearly half of respondents (45%) who had experienced feelings of depression said they have had a moderate or high need for help, but 39% said they had received no help.

The same proportion who had experienced anxiety, fear or uncertainty about the future said they have had a moderate or high need for help, but 37% said they had not received any.

People living with heart and circulatory diseases mentioned several challenges that affected their emotional and psychological wellbeing. These included treatment-related worries, perceived financial strain, lack of social support, impaired physical function, perception of feeling different from peers, bodily pain or symptoms, fear of recurrence of cardiac events, uncertainty about the future and impaired health-related quality of life.

Those who said they received no help wanted to have better access to professional psychological support, be it through their GP or as part of rehabilitation.

Further analysis of patient data by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) reveals more than one in three (37%) working age adults in the UK living with coronary heart disease have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression by their GP, up from 30% a decade earlier.

Around four in 10 (41%) working age stroke survivors have also been diagnosed with anxiety or depression by their GP, up from 33% a decade ago.

Coronary heart disease, which can cause a heart attack, and stroke are two of the most common types of heart and circulatory disease in the UK.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF, said everyone should have access to support and care that addresses their psychological needs alongside treatment of their heart or circulatory disease.

“For anyone who has had a heart attack, stroke or heart surgery, or has been told they have a heart or circulatory condition, it is normal to feel low, worried or anxious,” he added.