The drugs could reduce dependence, physical disability, depression and anxiety in the first year after a stroke, according to the study by Edinburgh University.
Anti-depressants could promote the growth of new nerve cells in the brain or protect other cells damaged by stroke, the authors suggest.
By preventing depression they may encourage more patients to be physically active, they suggest.
Professor Gillian Mead, professor of stroke and elderly care medicine at the university, said: “Anti-depressants have been successfully used for many years to relieve depression.
“However, it now appears that they also have effects on the brain that may help patients make a better recovery from the physical effects of stroke.”