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Bipolar disorder linked to significant decrease in life expectancy

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HQ Team

January 6, 2024: A recent study from the University of Michigan reveals a surprising correlation between bipolar disorder and a significant decrease in life expectancy. The research says that bipolar risks even surpass the risk associated with smoking.

The researchers discovered that individuals with bipolar disorder face a four to six times higher risk of premature death compared to those without the condition. The study, which examined data from over 1,100 participants in a long-term research program, highlighted the stark contrast in mortality rates. Surprisingly, the risk associated with bipolar disorder even surpassed that of smoking, a well-known contributor to premature death.


The study compared the mortality rates of individuals with bipolar disorder to those who smoked or were over the age of 60. Strikingly, individuals with bipolar disorder were six times more likely to die during a 10-year period than their counterparts without the condition. In comparison, smokers and individuals over 60 faced a twofold increased risk of premature death. These findings challenge conventional perceptions and underscore the urgent need for a more comprehensive approach to mental health.

Data sources

The researchers not only relied on a cohort from their long-term study but also analyzed extensive anonymous patient records from over 18,000 individuals receiving primary care through Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center. Both datasets consistently demonstrated the elevated risk of premature death associated with bipolar disorder. The results underscore the urgency of addressing mental health issues on a broader scale.

Addressing the disparities

The study’s lead author, Dr. Anastasia Yocum, emphasizes the need for proactive measures to prevent early deaths in individuals with bipolar disorder. The findings suggest that the health and lifestyle differences between individuals with and without bipolar disorder contribute to this heightened risk. The study advocates for increased efforts in the medical and public health communities to address the multifaceted factors contributing to premature deaths in those with bipolar disorder.

The study also revealed additional disparities between groups, such as a higher prevalence of smoking among individuals with bipolar disorder. However, the research found no significant association between the number of years on mental health medications and the risk of premature death. These nuanced findings highlight the complexity of factors influencing mortality and underscore the need for tailored interventions.

Path forward

While smoking prevention and cardiovascular disease awareness have received significant attention, mental health remains under-addressed. The researchers advocate for educational initiatives targeting stress management, early intervention, and mental health awareness to mitigate the risks associated with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder’s impact extends beyond the realms of mental health, significantly affecting life expectancy. The study from the University of Michigan underscores the urgent need for a holistic approach to mental health, addressing not only the symptoms of bipolar disorder but also the contributing lifestyle and health factors.

The study is available in the journal Psychiatry Research.

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