Monday, March 17, 2014

Age of Bipolar I Onset Differentials Between USA and Europe

Along with higher rates of bipolar disorder in the USA, this paper demonstrates that one particular type of bipolar disorder, bipolar I, has an earlier average onset age than in Europe.  The paper recognizes that there are possibly some genetic factors involved: perhaps those prone to bipolar I were more likely to immigrate to America; shorter generation time in America may have increased the fraction of the population (especially bipolar disorder and hypersexuality are commonly linked).  They do point out that childhood trauma and substance abuse are both associated with the onset of bipolar I, and seem to consider it unnecessary of explication that both of these are a bigger problem in the US than in Europe.  That is also my impression -- that American kids are much more likely to be substance abusers than their European counterparts.

I would argue that this is perhaps not because of our generally more puritanical alcohol and drug laws, but that because of how widespread the substance abuse problems are here, our laws are generally stricter than Europe.


  1. Not sure if it's the chicken or the egg, but alcohol (and other drug use) is higher in bipolar teens than the general population. The theory I've heard presented is that they know "something" is wrong with them and are trying to self medicate as best they can.

  2. In the case of marijuana and schizophrenia, longitudinal studies demonstrate the marijuana comes first. I would be very surprised if alcohol does not have a similar effect.

    Of course, once ill, intoxicants are a common "solution."