A University of Iowa study finds stroke victims who are given anti-depression medication and "talk therapy" are much more likely to avoid depression and live longer, happier lives. Dr. Robert Robinson, a professor and head of psychiatry at the U-of-I College of Medicine, says the preventive care is proving very effective in staving off depression in stroke patients who would otherwise very likely develop it.

"In terms of statistical analysis of what the likelihood is of developing depression within that first year, if you had active antidepressant treatment, you were four-and-a-half times less likely to develop depression," Robinson says. In addition to warding off depression, he says the patients in the study were also found to be living much longer lives.

Robinson says, "This prevention of depression is likely to significantly decrease the mortality rate from stroke and significantly improve the quality of the care that we can provide for patients who’ve suffered a stroke." Some 700-thousand Americans have a stroke each year and more than one in three develop depression, creating a significant health care challenge.

The study involved 176 stroke patients in Iowa City, Chicago and White Plains, New York. He says the results of the study have far-reaching implications in terms of how the use of such prevention methods could benefit other types of patients.

Robinson says, "We have just begun a study to see if we can prevent depression developing in veterans who have had a traumatic brain injury." He says most of the subjects in that study will be veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Robinson says this marks the first time a double-blinded randomized study has shown it is possible to prevent a psychiatric disorder in patients without previous illness. The findings from the U-of-I research appear in the May 28th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.