Dr Reiner Rugulies from San Francisco's University of California, conducted a survey of 11 large-scale studies on depression and future heart disease published between 1993 and 2000.
More than 36,000 depressed and non-depressed men and women were tracked for between three and 37 years to document the incidence of heart attack and deaths from heart disease.
In seven of the 11 studies, depression was associated significantly with increased risk of heart disease, despite the subjects' initial good health.
In these seven studies, depressed people were between one-and-a-half and four times as likely as their non-depressed counterparts to develop heart disease, according to Dr Rugulies.
Dr Rugulies made the distinction between clinical depression and "depressed mood", and said that the link between heart disease and the former type of mental distress was "striking".
Those people with clinical depression were almost twice as likely as individuals with depressed mood and nearly three times as likely as non-depressed individuals to develop heart disease.
Dr Rugulies points out that the link between depression as a precursor to heart disease is unclear, but adds that there is a suggestion that depressed people have a higher risk of hypertension and are more likely to smoke and take little or no exercise.
A spokeswoman for the charity Depression Alliance told Health Media that, although the link between depression and heart disease has been confirmed, more research is needed to establish the precise connection.
But she added, "The symptoms of depression are thought to be due to some brain chemicals becoming underactive and it is likely that this leads to other problems including heart disease."
The research id published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
(c) Health Media Ltd 2002