The most effective and short-term treatment for depression in people with artery blockage is physical exercise.

According to an RCSI study, exercise is probably the most effective short-term treatment for depression in adults with coronary heart disease when compared to antidepressants and psychotherapy.

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease is what occurs when a buildup of fatty substances in the coronary arteries prevents or interrupts your heart’s blood flow. Over time, the walls of your arteries can become furred up with fatty deposits.

The study, which was conducted under the direction of experts from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, was published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Comparing treatments for depression for coronary disease

The results of this study—the first to compare therapies for depression in people with coronary disease—provide vital clinical information that will aid doctors in choosing the most effective course of action for their patients.

Antidepressants, psychotherapy, exercise, combinations of psychotherapy and antidepressants, and collaborative care (i.e., treatments developed by a multidisciplinary team of clinicians with input from the patient) were all examined in treatment trials by the researchers.

The researchers examined patient adherence to the treatment (dropout rate) and changes in depressive symptoms eight weeks after starting the medication as ways to gauge success.

For depression, exercise is the most effective treatment effect

Exercise and combination treatments (psychotherapy and antidepressants) were shown to have the most positive treatment outcomes. Exercise is likely the most beneficial treatment, according to the review’s conclusions, despite the combination of research results’ significant risk of bias. Antidepressants had the most research support, while psychotherapy and collaborative care did not perform very well.

“Depression is common in patients with coronary artery disease. Having both conditions can have a significant impact on the quality of life for patients, so it is vital that they access to the most effective treatments,” commented Dr Frank Doyle, Senior Lecturer Division of Population Health Sciences, RCSI, and the study’s first author.

Exercise also works on blood pressure and cholesterol

“Our study indicates that exercise is likely to be the best treatment for depression following coronary artery disease. Our findings further highlight the clinical importance of exercise as a treatment as we see that it improves not only depression but also other important aspects of heart disease, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, in these patients.”

“We continue to see emerging evidence of the importance of lifestyle to treat disease — in comparison to other treatments — but further high-quality research is needed. People with coronary heart disease who have symptoms of depression should talk to their doctor about treatments that are most suitable for their personal needs, and clinicians can be confident in recommending exercise to their patients.”

Researchers from the United States, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Denmark collaborated with Dr. Frank Doyle and the study’s senior authors, Prof. Jan Sorensen (Health Outcomes Research Centre, RCSI) and Prof. Martin Dempster (School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast), to carry out the study.

This study was also the first of its kind to develop a hybrid review—a strategy for conducting systematic reviews that combines umbrella reviews with systematic reviews.

Story Source:

Materials provided by RCSI. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Frank Doyle, Kenneth E. Freedland, Robert M. Carney, Peter de Jonge, Chris Dickens, Susanne S. Pedersen, Jan Sorensen, Martin Dempster. Hybrid Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials of Interventions for Depressive Symptoms in Patients With Coronary Artery Disease. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2021; 83 (5): 423 DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000944

Cite This Page:

RCSI. “Exercise likely to be best treatment for depression in coronary heart disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2021. <>.

Help is here:

Name of the Organisation: India Heart Foundation:

The India Heart Foundation is a collective that works with doctors from across the country empowering them to reach out to the people around them better. They are creating medical educational resources and building a global cardiovascular community to promote cardiovascular health at a regional and national level.


Contact: Telephone: +91 8220277777

Name of the Organisation: Vandrevala Foundation

Vandrevala Foundation is a non-profit that partners with organizations to help communities thrive by providing education and healthcare. Vandrevala Foundation launched a mental health helpline in India in 2009 to offer free psychological counselling and crisis mediation to anyone experiencing distress due to depression, trauma, mood disorders, chronic illness, and relationship conflict.


Contact: Email:

Telephone: +91 9999 666 555

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