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Bipolar Disord. 2015 Mar;17(2):184-93. doi: 10.1111/bdi.12242. Epub 2014 Aug 13.

Bipolar disorder and its relation to major psychiatric disorders: a family-based study in the Swedish population.

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Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.



Bipolar disorder (BPD) shares genetic components with other psychiatric disorders; however, uncertainty remains about where in the psychiatric spectra BPD falls. To understand the etiology of BPD, we studied the familial aggregation of BPD and co-aggregation between BPD and schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, drug abuse, personality disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.


A population-based cohort was created by linking several Swedish national registers. A total of 54,723 individuals with BPD were identified among 8,141,033 offspring from 4,149,748 nuclear families. The relative risk of BPD in relatives and the co-occurrence of other psychiatric disorders in patients with BPD and their relatives were compared to those of matched-population controls. Structural equation modeling was used to estimate the heritability and tetrachoric correlation.


The familial risks for relatives of BPD probands were 5.8-7.9 in first-degree relatives, and decreased with genetic distance. Co-occurrence risks for other psychiatric disorders were 9.7-22.9 in individuals with BPD and 1.7-2.8 in full siblings of BPD probands. Heritability for BPD was estimated at 58%. The correlations between BPD and other psychiatric disorders were considerable (0.37-0.62) and primarily due to genetic effects. The correlation with depression was the highest (0.62), and was 0.44 for schizophrenia.


The high familial risks provide evidence that genetic factors play an important role in the etiology of BPD, and the shared genetic determinants suggest pleiotropic effects across different psychiatric disorders. Results also indicate that BPD is in both the mood and psychotic spectra, but possibly more closely related to mood disorders.


genetic epidemiology; heritability; relative risk

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