Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 796–809

Depression in general intensive care unit survivors: a systematic review

  • Dimitry S. Davydow
  • Jeneen M. Gifford
  • Sanjay V. Desai
  • O. Joseph Bienvenu
  • Dale M. Needham

DOI: 10.1007/s00134-009-1396-5

Cite this article as:
Davydow, D.S., Gifford, J.M., Desai, S.V. et al. Intensive Care Med (2009) 35: 796. doi:10.1007/s00134-009-1396-5



To critically review data on the prevalence of depressive symptoms in general intensive care unit (ICU) survivors, risk factors for these symptoms, and their impact on health-related quality of life (HRQOL).


We conducted a systematic review using Medline, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and a hand-search of 13 journals.


Fourteen studies were eligible. The median point prevalence of “clinically significant” depressive symptoms was 28% (total n = 1,213). Neither sex nor age were consistent risk factors for post-ICU depression, and severity of illness at ICU admission was consistently not a risk factor. Early post-ICU depressive symptoms were a strong risk factor for subsequent depressive symptoms. Post-ICU depressive symptoms were associated with substantially lower HRQOL.


Depressive symptoms are common in general ICU survivors and negatively impact HRQOL. Future studies should address how factors related to individual patients, critical illness and post-ICU recovery are associated with depression in ICU survivors.


DepressionCritical careRisk factorsQuality of lifeOutcome assessment (health care)



Intensive care unit

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dimitry S. Davydow
    • 1
  • Jeneen M. Gifford
    • 2
  • Sanjay V. Desai
    • 3
  • O. Joseph Bienvenu
    • 4
  • Dale M. Needham
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesHarborview Medical Center, University of Washington School of MedicineSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of MedicineJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pulmonary/Critical CareWashington Hospital CenterWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  5. 5.Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care MedicineJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA