Accelerated aging has been proposed as a mechanism explaining the increased prevalence of comorbid general medical illnesses in bipolar disorder. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that shortened lifespan in bipolar patients (due to physical illness) starts in early and mid-adulthood, supporting the hypothesis of accelerated aging.
A total of 22,635 patients with bipolar disorder were included in the study in addition to data from the entire Danish general population of 5.4 million people. At age 15 years, remaining life expectancy before age 90 years was decreased 12.7 and 8.9 life years, respectively, for men and women with bipolar disorder. For 15-year old boys with bipolar disorder, natural causes accounted for 58% of all lost life years and for 15-year old girls, natural causes accounted for 67% increasing to 74% and 80% for 45-year old men and women, respectively.
The authors concluded that natural causes of death were the most prevalent reason for lost life years already from adolescence and increased substantially during early and mid-adulthood, in this way supporting the hypothesis of accelerated aging. They suggest that early intervention in bipolar disorder should not only focus on improving outcome of the bipolar disorder but also on decreasing the risk of comorbid general medical illnesses.
Kessing LV, Vradi E, McIntyre RS and Andersen PK: Causes of decreased life expectancy over the life span in bipolar disorder. J. Affective Disorders 180: 142-147 (2015).

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