Depressed Vets at Risk for Early Death

Depression among veterans increases health risks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Although veterans are at risk for developing post-traumatic stress syndrome, they also should be aware for other mental health conditions, such as a depression.

A recent study has found that depression among veterans is actually a risk factor for an earlier death.

A comparison of depressed and non-depressed veterans found that the depressed vets died sooner, even if the cause of death was the same.

"Veterans should seek treatment - call a therapist."

The study was led by Kara Zivin, PhD, of the National Serious Mental Illness Treatment Research and Evaluation Center and the Health Services Research and Development Center for Clinical Management Research within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The researchers used VA data from 2007 to look at almost five million veterans' deaths, involving 13 different causes of death.

They sought to determine the average age of death and the years of potential life lost among the veterans who had depression compared to those who didn't.

There were 701,659 vets with depression in the study data and 4,245,193 without depression.

The researchers found that the average age of death among the depressed vets was 71.1, compared to 75.9 for the non-depressed vets.

The depressed veterans also had a greater number of years of potential life lost: 13.4 instead of 10.2 among the non-depressed vets.

The years of potential life lost is an estimate of how much longer a person would have lived if they had not died before their time of a specific condition.

Although the precise number of years lost depended on the particular cause of death, depressed patients died between 2.5 and 8.7 years earlier than the non-depressed patients even within individual categories of causes of death.

"These findings highlight the importance of depression as a potential contributor to early mortality," the authors wrote. "Because depression is treatable, these findings raise the possibility that depression treatment could have a measurable impact on risk of early death."

The study was published August 1 in the journal Psychiatric Services. The research was funded by two grants from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Service. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
August 14, 2012
Last Updated:
August 21, 2012