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28-06-2011 | Mental health | Article

Educational achievement unaffected by bipolar disorder


Free abstract

MedWire News: Bipolar disorder patients are educated to a similar level to the general population, say Norwegian researchers who also discovered that educational attainment, and receipt of disability benefit, is unaffected by disease severity.

As many patients develop bipolar disorder during adolescence, disease progression may affect educational attainment, work function, and how patients benefit from education and occupational function. However, studies conducted so far have produced mixed results.

To investigate further, Helle Schoeyen, from Stavanger University Hospital, and colleagues recruited 252 bipolar disorder patients from acute wards across Norway, of whom 69.8% had bipolar I disorder, 25.0% bipolar II disorder, and 5.2% bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (NOS). They also recruited 230 bipolar disorder outpatients from the Oslo region, of whom 60.4% had bipolar I disorder, 33.5% bipolar II disorder, and 6.1% bipolar disorder NOS.

The demographic and clinical characteristics of the two patient groups were compared, and levels of education, marital status, and disability benefits were compared with data on 100,869 members of the general population provided by Statistics Norway.

The team reports in the Journal of Affective Disorders that, on logistic regression analysis controlling for age, gender, and geographic living area, bipolar disorder patients aged less than 30 years and 30-45 years had no difference in educational achievement for high level education relative to the general population. But patients aged 45-60 years and 60-80 years were significantly more likely than the general population to have a high level of education, at odds ratios of 1.64 and 3.60, respectively.

Bipolar disorder patients had a significantly increased risk for receipt of disability benefit versus the general population, at odds ratios for the age groups less than 30 years, 30-45 years, 45-60 years, and 60-80 years of 13.47, 9.53, 5.01, and 7.38, respectively. Patients were also more likely to be single than the people in general population.

The team concludes: "The differences in demographic and clinical characteristics… did not influence educational achievement and receipt of disability pension, indicating that there are other factors such as neurocognitive function associated with bipolar disorder that are of importance for maintenance of occupational and social function.

"These findings emphasize the importance of early identification and adequate follow-up treatment of [bipolar disorder] throughout the life span in order to prevent a decline in social and occupational function."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Liam Davenport

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