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Individuals with a mental health disorder appear to be at increased risk of medical illness.
To examine rates of medical illnesses in patients with bipolar disorder (n = 1720) and to examine the clinical course of the bipolar illness according to lifetime medical illness burden.
Participants recruited within the UK were asked about the lifetime occurrence of 20 medical illnesses, interviewed using the Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry (SCAN) and diagnosed according to DSM-IV criteria.
We found significantly increased rates of several medical illnesses in our bipolar sample. A high medical illness burden was associated with a history of anxiety disorder, rapid cycling mood episodes, suicide attempts and mood episodes with a typically acute onset.
Bipolar disorder is associated with high rates of medical illness. This comorbidity needs to be taken into account by services in order to improve outcomes for patients with bipolar disorder and also in research investigating the aetiology of affective disorder where shared biological pathways may play a role.
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