Background: This study aimed to (1) examine the proportion of patients presenting to an emergency department (ED) for acute cardiac symptoms with comorbid mental health conditions (MHCs) comprising current depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder; (2) compare cardiac patients with and without MHCs regarding sociodemographic, medical, and psychological characteristics; and (3) examine recognition and treatment rates of MHCs.
Methods: Multimorbid patients, aged ≥50 years, presenting to an inner-city ED with acute cardiac symptoms including chest pain, dyspnea, and palpitations, completed validated self-report instruments assessing MHCs and a questionnaire collecting psychosocial and medical information. In addition, routine medical data were extracted from the electronic health record.
Results: A total of 641 patients were included in the study. Mean (±SD) age was 68.8 (±10.8) years and 41.7% were female. Based on screening instruments, 28.4% of patients were affected with comorbid MHCs. Patients reported clinically significant symptoms of depression (23.3% PHQ-9 ≥10), generalized anxiety disorder (12.2% GAD-7 ≥10), and panic disorder (4.7% PHQ-PD). Patients with MHCs were more likely to be younger, female, lower educated, and unemployed. The presence of MHCs was associated with higher cardiac symptom burden and subjective treatment urgency as well as more psychosocial distress (PHQ-stress) and impaired quality of life (SF-12v2). Of all patients, 15.6% were identified with new or unrecognized MHCs.
Conclusions: MHCs are prevalent in nearly one-third of patients presenting with cardinal cardiac symptoms. Thus, the ED visit offers an opportunity to identify and refer patients with MHCs to appropriate and timely care after exclusion of life-threatening conditions.