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A University of Gothenburg study has revealed that individuals with bipolar disorders face a significant obesity-related health challenge. This could lead to a reduced life expectancy compared to the general population.

Bipolar individuals susceptible to obesity

The study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry reveals that adults with bipolar disorders are particularly susceptible to obesity. The research emphasizes the significant impact of the obesity epidemic on this group.

During a 12-year period from 2008 to 2019, researchers analyzed the BMI progression of 22,127 individuals with bipolar disorders and 71,894 individuals from the general population in Sweden using data from BipoläR and Statistics Sweden (SCB). In the general population, obesity rates increased from 11% to 15% for men and from 10% to 13% for women. Among those with bipolar disorders, obesity rates rose from 22% to 29% for men and from 25% to 33% for women.

Bipolar disorders affect 2-3% of the population, marked by manic and depressive episodes. If untreated, it can be disabling, but medication and therapy enable a normal life. Researchers caution against obesity’s impact on bipolar disorders, leading to worse outcomes in cardiovascular health, osteoarthritis, cancer, asthma, and antibiotic treatment effectiveness.

Obesity reduces effectiveness of bipolar treatments

The lead author, Hemen Najar, a Senior specialist at the Department of Psychotic Disorders at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, has highlighted that obesity not only has general negative effects but is also associated with reduced effectiveness of antidepressants and treatments like valproate and lithium in people with bipolar disorders. Moreover, obesity worsens the overall outlook for bipolar disorders, leading to higher chances of relapse and more severe mood swings during episodes.

The research highlights a significant difference in BMI growth rates between individuals with bipolar disorders and the general population. Over a decade, BMI increased by 0.4 and 0.6 units for men and women respectively in the general population, but rose by 1.4 units for women and 1.1 for men with bipolar disorders. This widening BMI gap is concerning because it contributes to co-morbidities in those with bipolar disorders, raising their risk of premature death.