Depressed middle-aged women have almost double the risk of suffering a stroke, according to research.

A 12-year Australian study of 10,547 women aged 47 to 52 found depressed women had a 2.4 times increased risk of stroke compared to those who were not depressed.

Even after researchers eliminated several factors that increase stroke risks, depressed women were still 1.9 times more likely to have a stroke.

The findings were published yesterday in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Study author Caroline Jackson, an epidemiologist in the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Australia, said: "When treating women, doctors need to recognise the serious nature of poor mental health and what effects it can have in the long term.

"Current guidelines for stroke prevention tend to overlook the potential role of depression."

Although the increased stroke risk associated with depression was large in the study, the absolute risk of stroke is still fairly low for this age group, Dr Jackson said.