Monday, February 2, 2009

Bipolar Disorder Linked to Higher Mortality from Medical Illnesses

Bipolar disorders appear to increase the risk of early death from a medical illness, according to a literature review study published as the lead article this week in the journal Psychiatric Services.

The researchers comprehensively reviewed 17 studies involving more than 331,000 patients. Evidence suggested that people with bipolar disorder have a higher mortality from natural causes compared to people in the general population of similar age and gender but without mental illness. The various studies indicated that the risk was from 35 percent to 200 percent higher. The risk is the same for men and women. The most common conditions leading to premature death were heart disease, respiratory diseases, stroke, and endocrine problems such as diabetes.

"The review of data gathered from large population studies suggests that having bipolar disorder is similar to being a smoker in terms of increasing a person's risk of early death," said Dr. Wayne Katon, a University of Washington (UW) professor of psychiatry. He co-authored the study with third-year UW psychiatry resident Babak Roshanaei-Moghaddam. The article is titled, "Premature Mortality from General Medical Illnesses Among Persons with Bipolar Disorder: A Review." Katon is a noted researcher on the interplay between life-shortening medical conditions and mood disorders.

People with bipolar disorder tend to have manic phases and depressed phases in their lives. During mania, they might be too wound up to sleep, their thoughts might race, and they might have boundless energy. During depression, they might feel painfully sad, hopeless, and immobilized.


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