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23-09-2010 | Mental health | Article

Bipolar disorder linked to reduced socio-economic status


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results from a Norwegian study suggest that, overall, individuals with bipolar disorder (BD) have lower socio-economic status than the general population, despite having similar education levels.

Writing in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Helle Schoeyen (Stavanger University Hospital) and team explain: "In the general population, there is a strong correlation between degree of education and social and occupational function in later life."

But they add that "the relationship between length of education and social and occupational function has, to the best of our knowledge, not previously been investigated in BD."

To address this, the researchers studied 257 patients with BD (51.4% women), aged at least 18 years, from the Norwegian Bipolar Research and Innovation Network. Of these, 69.3% had BD I, 25.7% BD II, and 5.1% had BD not otherwise specified.

Education, marital status, income, and disability levels were compared between the BD patients and a reference sample of 56,540 individuals from the general population who were matched for geographic area, age, and gender.

The researchers found that mean length of education was the same in the BD patients and the population sample, at 12.6 years. However, 31.9% of BD patients had completed some college education compared with just 26.9% of the general population sample.

Despite this, 35.0% of BD patients had an income below the 10% percentile, compared with just 9.9% of individuals from the general population sample. Furthermore, mean annual household income was NOK 259,640 (€32,754, US $43,662) in the BD patients, compared with NOK 572,820 (€72,265, US $96,319) in the general population sample.

The researchers also found that BD patients were more likely to be single and receiving a disability pension than individuals in the general population sample, at 66.0% versus 39.4%, and 47.9% versus 11.5%, respectively.

Schoeyen and team conclude: "The main finding of this study was that BD patients had the same level of education but significantly lower social and occupational function than the general population."

They add: "The present findings suggest that early identification and adequate follow-up treatment of BD throughout the life span could prevent a decline in social and occupational function."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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