Public Awareness About the Connection Between Depression and Physical Health: Specifically Heart Disease
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The medical community continues to acknowledge a connection between depression and physical health, for example, cardiac disease. This study addresses public awareness about depression’s effects on physical health, the relationship between cardiac disease and depression, and preferred sources of health information, in an effort to inform future health education programs. A survey, administered to 816 adults ages 40–69, focused on public awareness, perception of depression as an illness, its impact on other illnesses such as heart disease, and sources of health information. (1) Eighty-three percent (83%) of respondents felt depression was an illness; (2) a slightly higher percentage (85.8%) felt a mental disorder, like depression, could affect the course of a physical illness; (3) respondents’ awareness of links between depression and cardiac disease ranged from 29.8% (awareness of depression as a risk factor for coronary artery disease) to 31.6% (awareness that depression can increase the risk of having a second heart attack); (4) print media were the most frequently cited sources of health information (22.7%); and (5) more highly educated respondents were more informed about depression than respondents with less education. Although a majority of respondents (1) recognized depression as an illness (2) thought it could complicate recovery from a physical illness, less than a third of them were aware of links between cardiac disease and depression. Demographic groups differed in their preferred sources of health information, especially across educational levels, demonstrating a need for targeted health educational outreach in efforts to reach a variety of populations.
KeywordsPublic awareness Depression Heart disease Sources of health information survey Risk factors
At the time of the research Drs. Blumenfield and Suojanen were on the faculty of New York Medical College which provided a grant to conduct the research and Dr. Blumenfield was the Sidney E. Frank Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry & Behavior Sciences at the time that a grant was provided by the Sidney E. Frank Endowment Fund. Ms. Weiss at the time the research began was a project director for the Chicago Ethnic Community Study at Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC) which was retained to conduct the survey.
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