Bipolar Disorder and Socio-economic Status Linked

September 27, 2010

Norwegian researchers have found a socio-economic disparity among patients with bipolar disorder that persists despite equal education.

“Early identification and adequate follow-up treatment of bipolar disorder throughout the life span could prevent a decline in social and occupational function," concluded Norwegian researchers who recently published their study results in the Journal of Affective Disorders. The team found that, overall, people with bipolar disorder have a lower socio-economic status than that of those among the general population, despite similar educational backgrounds.

Led by Helle Schoeyen, Stavanger University Hospital, Norway, the team wrote, "In the general population, there is a strong correlation between degree of education and social and occupational function in later life,” adding that “the relationship between length of education and social and occupational function has, to the best of our knowledge, not previously been investigated in BD.”

Thus, they studies 257 patients age 18 years or older with bipolar disorder, of whom 69.3% had bipolar disorder I, 25.7% had bipolar disorder II, and 5.1% had BD not otherwise specified. After comparing education, marital status, income, and disability levels between participants with bipolar disorder and 56,540 geographical, age, and gender matches from the general population, they found that mean education was the same among both groups, at 12.6 years.

And despite 31.9% of patients with bipolar disorder having completed some college education—compared with 26.9% of the general population—35% of the former had an income below the 10th percentile, compared with 9.9% of the latter. Additionally, mean annual household income for patients with bipolar disorder was $43,662, compared with $96,319 in the general population.

Further, 66% of participants with bipolar disorder were single, compared to 47.9% of the general population, and 39.4% of the former received a disability pension, compared with 11.5% of the latter.

The researchers concluded, "The main finding of this study was that BD patients had the same level of education but significantly lower social and occupational function than the general population."