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Pacemakers could increase depression and anxiety risk

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Depression and anxiety pacemaker
Around three million people worldwide currently live with a pacemaker

New research has suggested that patients who live with implantable defibrillators are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with depression.

The study from Odense University Hospital examined over 1,000 patients who had been fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) and assed their anxiety and depression levels as well as their physical quality of life.

The patients involved were receiving their first ICD and this would normally lead to them to be screened only once after this.

Researchers from Odense wanted to see how the mental effects develop over time, surveying the participants three, six, 12 and 14 months after their implantation.

During this follow up period, around 15 per cent of patients reported developing new-onset anxiety, with a further 11 per cent saying they experience new onset depression.

Other factors were also considered during the study. Being married, having a ‘type D’ personality and doing less physical activity all increased the risk of new onset anxiety.

Higher activity levels were associated with a reduced risk of depression, while a higher age helped lower the chances of both.

Study author Professor Susanne Pedersen said: “Most patients adapt well to living with an ICD. For others it completely changes their life, with worries about shocks from the device, body image, and livelihood as some need to change their job.”

“Our results suggest that more regular screening for depression and anxiety could identify patients who might benefit from additional support.”

“Taken together, our findings indicate that younger patients, those with poor physical function, and those with type D personality are more likely to become anxious or depressed.”

“People with type D personality tend to worry while not sharing negative emotions with others, which may compromise their mental health.”

Anxiety and depression has been a key part of the conversation around the COVID-19 pandemic, with a decline in this area being one of its biggest health trends.

Users of the my mhealth software recently proved this, as Health Tech World covered they recorded low mental health scores according to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.

The knock on effect of this was a number of support platforms being launched, such as Doctor Care Anywhere’s new digital service that was created in collaboration with Koa Health and Kooth. 

Professor Pedersen said that using such platforms could benefit those who received an ICD.

“One way to remedy this could be digital support,” she said. “Using an app or platform to provide information and reassurance, enabling patients to talk to a health professional if needed, and referring those with high anxiety or depression scores to a psychologist for an online treatment programme.

“We are piloting this approach, and in my experience, it is a minority of patients who need it, but for those who do, it can mean a world of difference.”

The data for the studies participants was obtained from the Danish Pacemaker and ICD Register and the results were presented at the annual European Heart Rhythm Association congress last week.

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