Females with bipolar disorder die an average of nine years earlier than the general population, and males an average of eight-and-a-half years earlier, according to researchers from Stanford University.
“We identified multiple causes, including increased mortality from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, COPD, influenza or pneumonia, unintentional injuries, and suicide among women and men with bipolar disorder and cancer among women with bipolar disorder,” researchers wrote in JAMA Psychiatry.
The study involved data from 6.5 million adults in Sweden, of whom 6,618 had bipolar disorder.
The findings revealed that the risk of dying from any cause was twice as high for women with bipolar disorder. The risk of suicide was significantly high for those with bipolar disorder, as well. Women had a 10 times greater chance of suicide, while for men it was 8 times greater, compared to people in the general population.
However, bipolar patients were also at greater risk of dying from heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, the flu and pneumonia, compared to the general population.
And rates of death from any cause — about 14 deaths per 1,000 people in the general population every year — were double that among bipolar people.
“Whatever we’re doing, these people are not dying (just) because of suicide. That’s not the reason for increased mortality. That’s a hard thing to get across,” said Dr. David Kupfer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.
Bipolar patients who were aware that they had those physical illnesses, however, had death rates similar to people who were not bipolar, according to the researchers, who suggested “that timely medical diagnosis and treatment may effectively reduce mortality among bipolar disorder patients to approach that of the general population.”
As for why those with bipolar disorder are more likely to die over a certain period of time than others, the research suggests a few potential causes, including that they may be less likely to seek out medical care and that the disorder may affect the body itself.
Also, some medications used to treat bipolar disorder have been linked to metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that raise the risk for heart disease.
In the study, the researchers discovered that some bipolar medications were linked to an increased risk of death, but those who took no medications to treat their disorder had an even higher risk of death.
Kupfer noted that the study’s findings suggest that bipolar patients should receive medical workups to find other conditions, and have those conditions managed by doctors.
Source: Stanford University