Metabolic complaints are twice as common in patients with bipolar disorder

Metabolic complaints such as elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are twice as common in people with bipolar disorder. This partly explains why they live on average about 10 years shorter than people who do not have a psychiatric disorder.This was shown by a study led by psychiatrist Benno Haarman of the UMCG. He used LifeLines data to investigate the presence of metabolic complaints, the so-called metabolic syndrome, in 493 patients with a bipolar disorder. He compared these data with an equally large group of participants who did not have a psychiatric disorder. The study is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

International research shows that about 2% of the population in Western countries suffers from bipolar disorder. Studies of patients in treatment at mental healthcare institutions have already shown that they are more likely to have a metabolic syndrome. Mental health care institutions mainly treat patients with more serious complaints. Until now, it had not been studied in patients with milder complaints. The aim of this study was to more precisely determine the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in patients with bipolar disorder. 

Metabolic syndrome twice as common in bipolair patients

The study shows that the metabolic syndrome is twice as common in patients with bipolar disorder, at 30.6% compared to 14.2% of the participants without the disorder. Metabolic syndrome was more common in patients who smoke, have a higher BMI and/or who use antidepressants. Furthermore, it was found that in patients with bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar or elevated cholesterol were not treated in all cases (69.5%, 24.0% and 18.4%, respectively). But that was similar for the participants who did not have a psychiatric disorder. Finally, it was striking that the study showed that a high percentage of participants with bipolar disorder do not have a paid job, namely 52.2%. That is more than twice as much compared to participants who do not have a psychiatric disorder (18.1%). This shows the enormous impact that bipolar disorder has on a person's life. 

According to Benno Haarman, the study emphasizes the importance of paying extra attention to metabolic syndrome in all patients with a bipolar disorder, even if they have a milder variant of the disorder. Proper treatment of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol is essential. Of course, this applies to all patients with metabolic syndrome, but especially to patients with bipolar disorder. 

The results of the study can be found here

The study was performed with LifeLines, the large population study in which 167,000 residents of the Northern Netherlands participate.