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J Affect Disord. 2005 May;86(1):47-60.

Medical comorbidity and health-related quality of life in bipolar disorder across the adult age span.

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Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry Stanford University; Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System-Building 348-Menlo Park Division, 795 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025-6328 94025,

Erratum in

  • J Affect Disord. 2006 Feb;90(2-3):275. Alshuler, Lori [corrected to Altshuler, Lori].



Little is known about medical comorbidity or health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in bipolar disorder across the adult age span, especially in public sector patients.


We obtained cross-sectional demographic, clinical, and functional ratings for 330 veterans hospitalized for bipolar disorder with Mini-Mental State score > or = 27 and without active alcohol/substance intoxication or withdrawal, who had had at least 2 prior psychiatric admissions in the last 5 years. Structured medical record review identified current/lifetime comorbid medical conditions. SF-36 Physical (PCS) and Mental (MCS) Component Scores, measured physical and mental HRQOL. Univariate and multivariate analyses addressed main hypotheses that physical and mental function decrease with age with decrements due to increasing medical comorbidity.


PCS decreased (worsened) with age; number of current comorbid medical diagnoses, but not age, explained the decline. Older individuals had higher (better) MCS, even without controlling for medical comorbidity. Multivariate analysis indicated association of MCS with age, current depressed/mixed episode, number of past-year depressive episodes, and current anxiety disorder, but not with medical comorbidity, number of past-year manic episodes, current substance disorder or lifetime comorbidities.


This cross-sectional design studied a predominantly male hospitalized sample who qualified for and consented to subsequent randomized treatment.


Medical comorbidity is associated with lower (worse) physical HRQOL, independent of age. Surprisingly, younger rather than older subjects reported lower mental HRQOL. This appears due in part to more complex psychiatric presentations, and several mechanisms are discussed. Both results suggest that age-specific assessment and treatment may enhance HRQOL outcome.

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