When you hear that people with bipolar disorder are more likely than those without it to die young, do you automatically assume their deaths are from suicide? Many people do make this assumption, which shows the need for more research and a greater general understanding of this disorder, and other mental illnesses.

The School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh recently conducted a large study that concluded that the sufferers of bipolar disorder have an increased risk of death from a number of different causes, and are likely to die almost a decade younger than those without the disorder. The rate of deaths in the general American population is 14 per 1,000 people, but for those affected by bipolar disorder, the  rate of death doubles. Certainly, suicide is a big part of this; as sadly, men and women with bipolar disorder are nine and ten times, respectively, more likely to kill themselves than the general population. The connection between suicide and mental illness seems fairly clear, but this recent study also found that people diagnosed with bipolar disease have an elevated risk of death from heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, flu, and pneumonia.

Part of this connection between serious physical illness and the bipolar mental disorder may be because medicines commonly prescribed to treat those with bipolar disability have been linked to increased risk factors for heart disease, lung disease or metabolic syndrome. This does not totally solve the problem, however, as those people who took no medications for their bipolar disorder had an even higher rate of death than those taking prescription drugs. Among the subjects who knew they already had those particular physical illnesses, however, the death rate was closer to that of the general population, which suggests that receiving medical care for their mental illness led them to learn about ways to manage or treat their physical illnesses and thereby reducing their health risk factors.

Read the entire article here: Bipolar disorder tied to risk of disease, early death