Since Rosie O’Donnell’s heart attack the issue of cardiovascular disease is back in focus. New research suggests that the heart attack impacts the healthy partner in a couple too. According to a study in the European Heart Journal, partners suffer depression when a spouse suffers a heart attack.
American and Danish researchers analyzed nearly 200,000 medical records of heart attack victims and their spouses.The main conclusion was that partners suffer depression, anxiety and might even have suicide attempts after their spouse has a sudden heart attack. And this is true even if their spouses survive and follow the heart attack treatment.
Researchers found out that after a patient survives a heart attack, their partner starts using more antidepressants. “We found more than three times the number of people whose spouses died from an AMI were using antidepressants in the year after the event compared with the year before” said Dr. Emil Fosbol, a Copenhagen cardiologist. “Those whose spouse survived an AMI had a 17 percent higher use of antidepressants” he added. Study shows that men are more likely to suffer depression after their spouse suffers a heart attack.
In this case, partners suffer a mental blow much greater than the spouses’, even if their physical health is worse. Depression after heart attack can be fatal, some of the partners often having suicide attempts. Study authors believe it is the unexpected nature of a heart attack that causes the overwhelming impact on the partner.
“If your partner dies suddenly from a heart attack, you have no time to prepare psychologically for the death, whereas if someone is ill with, for example, cancer, there is more time to grow used to the idea”, said Dr. Fosbol.
Unfortunately, doctors and psychiatrists can’t do anything for the depressed spouses. Medication can’t be prescribed, so the only solution is therapy. This is a moment when partners have to be strong.
“Never be isolated. Reach out or make sure family and friends are there for support. Hospitals offer support groups too so take advantage” advised Dorree Lynn, a Washington D.C. therapist.