Describing the relationship between cat bites and human depression using data from an electronic health record
Hanauer, D. A., Ramakrishnan, N., Seyfried, L. S.
Plos One 2013; 8: ARTN e70585 10.1371/journal.pone.0070585
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Data mining approaches have been increasingly applied to the electronic health record and have led to the discovery of numerous clinical associations. Recent data mining studies have suggested a potential association between cat bites and human depression. To explore this possible association in more detail we first used administrative diagnosis codes to identify patients with either depression or bites, drawn from a population of 1.3 million patients. We then conducted a manual chart review in the electronic health record of all patients with a code for a bite to accurately determine which were from cats or dogs. Overall there were 750 patients with cat bites, 1,108 with dog bites, and approximately 117,000 patients with depression. Depression was found in 41.3% of patients with cat bites and 28.7% of those with dog bites. Furthermore, 85.5% of those with both cat bites and depression were women, compared to 64.5% of those with dog bites and depression. The probability of a woman being diagnosed with depression at some point in her life if she presented to our health system with a cat bite was 47.0%, compared to 24.2% of men presenting with a similar bite. The high proportion of depression in patients who had cat bites, especially among women, suggests that screening for depression could be appropriate in patients who present to a clinical provider with a cat bite. Additionally, while no causative link is known to explain this association, there is growing evidence to suggest that the relationship between cats and human mental illness, such as depression, warrants further investigation.