A quarter of old folk who break hips, and then suffer from depression, may die within a year, Birmingham scientists have found.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham made the staggering discovery as they looked at the relationship between the stress of injury, poor immune systems and mental illness.
They found depression played a major part, with just under half of elderly patients developing the condition. Up to a quarter of those, they said, may die within a year.
Now the experts are calling for older patients who undergo the procedure to be routinely tested and treated for depression in a bid to save lives and reduce NHS costs.
Professor Janet Lord, director of the Medical Research Council-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research at Birmingham University, said: “We went in to this study assuming that the stress of a hip fracture would be the major factor, resulting in poor immune function in these patients and that depression might make things a little worse.
“Instead the data revealed that depression was the major factor influencing how well a patient recovered.
“Our work emphasises the importance of preventing or treating depression in this vulnerable patient group. Such a simple intervention could save many lives and reduce costs to the NHS.”
Participants who had not suffered from depression previously were picked for the study. Of those, 30 per cent were found to have the illness six weeks after suffering from a fracture.
Six months after their fracture, most of this group was found to be still depressed and took longer to recover.
Hazel Broadmore, from Chelmsley Wood, fractured her hip after slipping over while out walking. She said: “You have to keep active.
“I can see quite easily how people who don’t have the support of family and friends that I do can become depressed. And then you can just sit and have no reason to go out, and everything gets worse.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen to me – I couldn’t wait to get back to walk my dogs – but I can see how easily it could happen.”