Drugs can help lower blood pressure. But do they carry risks? (JOHN COOKE/ISTOCKPHOTO)
The question

A variety of prescription drugs have depression or other mood disorders as possible side effects. These medications include some designed to treat asthma and acne, as well as corticosteroids, which treat inflammation, and some contraceptives. Should blood pressure drugs be added to that list?

This study

Analyzed data on 144,066 adults of middle age and older (average age 56), including 32,130 people taking one of four types of drugs to control high blood pressure: beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin antagonists (including ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers) and thiazide diuretics.

In a five-year span, 299 people were admitted to a hospital because of a mood disorder, predominantly persistent depression (84 percent) but also including bipolar disorder and other mental-health issues. People taking a beta blocker or calcium channel blocker were twice as likely to have been hospitalized with a mood disorder as those taking an angiotensin antagonist. People taking an angiotensin antagonist were 53 percent less likely to have been hospitalized with a mood disorder than were those who took no blood pressure medication. Taking a thiazide diuretic, however, had essentially no effect on risk for mood-disorder hospitalization.

Who may be affected

People taking medication for high blood pressure, a condition that can cause serious health issues — including heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure — if left uncontrolled. An estimated 1 in 3 American adults has high blood pressure. Medications help lower blood pressure by making the heart beat more slowly and with less force (beta blockers), relaxing blood vessels (ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers and calcium channel blockers) or removing sodium from the body, which decreases the fluid held by blood vessels (diuretics). Exercise and diet changes also can help keep blood pressure in check.


Study data included only severe cases of mood disorders, those requiring hospital admission; what effect blood pressure drugs might have on milder cases of mood disorders was not tested. The study did not identify specific medications but rather medication classes, or types. Factors other than taking blood pressure medication may have contributed to the development of mood disorders among those in the study.

Find this study

Online Oct. 10 in Hypertension (hyper.ahajournals.org)

Learn more

Information on high blood pressure is available at nhlbi.nih.gov/health (click on “Health Topics”) and www.familydoctor.org.

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals.