Having bipolar disorder – a serious mental illness that can cause both manic and depressed moods – can make life more challenging.
It also comes with a higher risk of dying early. Now, a study puts into perspective just how large that risk is, and how it compares with other factors that can shorten life.
In two different groups, people with bipolar disorder were four to six times more likely as people without the condition to die prematurely, the study finds.
By contrast, people who had ever smoked were about twice as likely to die prematurely than those who had never smoked – whether or not they had bipolar disorder.
A team from the University of Michigan, home to one of the world’s largest longterm studies of people with bipolar disorder, reports their findings in the journal Psychiatry Research.
The stark difference in mortality, and the differences in health and lifestyle that likely contributed to it, should prompt more efforts at preventing early deaths, say the researchers.
“Bipolar disorder has long been seen as a risk factor for mortality, but always through a lens of other common causes of death,” said Anastasia Yocum, Ph.D., lead author of the study and data manager of the research program at the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program.
“We wanted to look at it by itself in comparison with conditions and lifestyle behaviors that are also linked to higher rates of premature death.”