By On May 27th, 2015

Bipolar Disorder Is Being Diagnosed At Earlier Ages, But Mortality Rate Is Still High

Advancements in mental health treatment are contributing to bipolar disorder being detected at younger ages, but new research shows the mortality rate remains high.

“Unfortunately, our study cannot say why bipolar is being diagnosed earlier, but we have several theories. One is increased awareness about bipolar disorder among clinicians,” Clara Reece Medici, fifth-year medical student, Psychiatric Research Academy, Aarhus University, in Denmark, told Medscape Medical News.

“Despite younger age at diagnosis, we haven’t really been able to alter mortality rates,” she noted.

Medici says she was inspired by a large observational study from Sweden which was published in 2014 and showed the age of diagnosis for bipolar disorder has decreased. “We wanted to see if this is true in Denmark too,” Medici said at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2015 Annual Meeting, where her research was presented.

For the research, Medici and her team used the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register and Danish Register of Causes of Death to analyze patients with a first-ever diagnosis of bipolar disorder between 1995 and 2012.

From this data, they found 15,335 individual cases of bipolar disorder which fit the criteria within the study period. Analysis showed the mean age of patients at the age of diagnosis dropped from 54.5 in 1995 to 42.4 years in 2012, a drop which Medici calls “quite significant.”

However, the high mortality rate remained the same throughout the study period.

“The majority of patients die from natural causes, but accidents and suicide account for a larger part of deaths in bipolar patients compared with the general population,” Medici noted.

The findings show that while earlier identification is important, improving treatment effectiveness and awareness of preventable mortality risks may be more essential in decreasing the high mortality rate associated with the disorder.

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