Epidemiological and pathobiological findings in bipolar disorder [BP] have often been limited by selection bias and lack of epidemiological representativeness. In a rural, circumscribed catchment area, ‘all’ patients with BP were identified and assessed. On preliminary analysis, morbid risk [MR] for BP over the area as a whole was 5.0 ± 0.6/1000. The distribution of MR for BP over geographical subregions showed no significant deviation from a statistical model for random occurrences in space by place at birth, in contrast to schizophrenia [SZ], and varied only modestly among males by place at onset. These results imply different etiological factors acting in BP in comparison with SZ, particularly with regard to the role of early versus later life events. In preliminary analyses of psychotic and cognitive features, current severity of positive symptoms was predicted in BP only by increasing dominance of the left hand; negative symptoms by duration of illness and current anticholinergic exposure; poorer general and frontal cognitive function by older age at onset of illness, increasing duration of illness, and current anticholinergic exposure. The finding on handedness suggests disturbance of cerebral asymmetry associated with positive symptoms in BP, while both negative symptoms and cognitive impairment may involve progressive processes. Further analysis of this epidemiologically complete population, including systematic comparisons of BP with schizoaffective disorder and SZ, continues.