People with bipolar disorder are more likely to be single, disabled, and have a lower income than people without the disorder, according to new research.
This often lowers their socioeconomic status than it would normally be, despite people with bipolar disorder often having more college education than those without the disorder.
These are the findings of a recent study completed by a group of Norwegian researchers that investigated how educational achievement relates to function in bipolar patients and which clinical factors are associated with level of education.
In past studies, there has been conflicting evidence regarding the importance of educational level as it relates to social and occupational functioning in the disorder, researchers noted.
Helle Schoeyen of Stavanger University Hospital and the research team explained that “in the general population, there is a strong correlation between degree of education and social and occupational function in later life.”
Findings of the current study revealed that a significantly higher percentage of the bipolar patients were single, had low income, or were disabled when compared to those without the disorder.
Data from 257 bipolar patients was drawn from the Norwegian Bipolar Research and Innovation Network. Patients in the identified bipolar groups were at least 18 years of age.
Of these, 69 percent had had the most serious form of bipolar disorder (Bipolar I), 26 percent had a less severe form of the disorder (Bipolar II), and 5 percent had a form of bipolar disorder that didn’t fit into either of these two categories.
A geographically-matched reference sample of 56,540 people was also taken from the general population on levels of education, marital status, income, and disability benefits.
The researchers found no notable difference in education. The average length of education was the same for bipolar patients and the general population — 12.6 years.
When the analysis was narrowed to college education, findings revealed that 32 percent of bipolar patients had completed some level of college while the same was only true for 27 percent of the general population.
Rapid cycling and recurring depressive episodes were the only clinical characteristics associated with low educational level, researchers wrote.
With respect to income, 35 percent of bipolar patients were found to have an income below the 10th percentile, compared to 10 percent of those analyzed from the reference sample.
Bipolar patients were also more likely to be single (66 percent) compared to the general population sample (39 percent). They were also more likely to receive a disability pension (48 percent) than the general population sample (11.5 percent).
“The main finding of this study was that bipolar disorder patients had the same level of education but significantly lower social and occupational function than the general population,” the team concluded.
They added that the present findings suggest that early identification and adequate follow-up treatment of bipolar throughout the life span could prevent a decline in social and occupational function.
A serious mental illness, bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood changes running the gamut from mania to depression. Risky behaviors are associated with bipolar disorder, and it often causes damage to relationships and careers, and even suicidal tendencies if not treated.
It is estimated that 5.7 million adults live with this disorder in the U.S., affecting all genders and ethnic groups.
The study can be found in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Source: Journal of Affective Disorders