Heart and Soul Study

The VA and NIH-funded Heart and Soul Study is a prospective cohort study that was designed to determine how depression and other mental health conditions influence the outcomes of patients with coronary heart disease. A total of 1024 participants were enrolled between 9/00 and 12/02 and have been followed for 15 years.

The Heart and Soul Study found that depressive symptoms were more strongly associated with health-related quality of life than objective measures of cardiac disease severity in patients with existing coronary heart disease (JAMA 2003). The Heart and Soul Study also demonstrated that the excess risk of cardiovascular events associated with depressive symptoms was not explained by the expected biological factors (e.g., increased catecholamine levels or inflammation) but rather by poor health behaviors, such as medication non-adherence and physical inactivity (JAMA 2008). This finding introduced the possibility that the excess risk of cardiovascular events associated with depression could be preventable with behavior modification.

In addition to evaluating the links between mental and physical health, the Heart and Soul Study continues to serve as a rich source of data for investigators to answer many other important research questions in cardiovascular epidemiology.