Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme depressive and manic
states which impair quality of life and increase suicide risk. An
urgent need in this field is better understanding of risk factors that
can be used to improve detection and treatment.
A University of Manchester study which looked at more than 30 years of research into bipolar, found that people with the disorder are
2.63 times more likely to have suffered emotional, physical or sexual
abuse as children than the general population.
‘People with bipolar disorder are 2.63 times more likely to have suffered emotional, physical or sexual abuse as children than the general population.’
In the study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry
the researchers identified 19 studies from hundreds published between
1980 and 2014 which gathered data from millions of patient records,
interviews and assessments.
By applying rigorous statistical analysis to the data, the
researchers compared the likelihood of people with and without bipolar
disorder having adverse childhood experiences, such as physical,
emotional and sexual abuse. The findings revealed a strong link between
these events and subsequent diagnosis.
Dr. Filippo Varese, one of the study authors, said, "Much research
into bipolar has focused on bio-genetics, but following previous work
on schizophrenia, we felt that a similar effect could be found in
bipolar. The link between experiencing a troubled childhood and
subsequently being diagnosed with this serious condition is extremely
The authors defined childhood adversity as experiencing neglect,
abuse, bullying or the loss of a parent before the age of 19. There was
a particularly strong link between emotional abuse with this four times
more likely to have happened to people with bipolar. However, the loss
of a parent did not raise the risk significantly.
The 'meta-analysis' approach has been applied in this study for
the first time in relation to bipolar disorder and childhood adversity
and, as a result, the findings represent a much larger pool of data than
has been previously available.
The findings have implications for those providing treatment, as
they can factor in these childhood experiences when developing
personalized therapy plans.
Dr. Jasper Palmier-Claus, the lead author, added, "Handled
sensitively, enquiries about a person's childhood experiences can make a
significant difference to how treatment proceeds and the types of
support that can be put into place."
The paper, 'The relationship between childhood adversity and bipolar
disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis', was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry