Study shows higher obesity risk in people with bipolar disorders

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A recent study from the University of Gothenburg highlights the troubling impact of the obesity pandemic on people with bipolar disorders.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, shows a significant rise in obesity rates among those with bipolar disorders compared to the general population.

The study analyzed BMI data from 2008 to 2019 for 22,127 individuals with bipolar disorders and 71,894 individuals from the general population in Sweden.

The researchers found that while obesity rates increased from 11% to 15% among men and 10% to 13% among women in the general population, the rates for men with bipolar disorders rose from 22% to 29%, and for women from 25% to 33%.

Obesity Affects Medication Effectiveness

One of the alarming findings from the study is that obesity can affect the effectiveness of medications commonly used to treat bipolar disorders, including antidepressants, lithium, and valproate.

Obesity also worsens the prognosis of bipolar disorders, increasing the likelihood of relapse and the severity of episodes of fluctuating mood.

Life Expectancy Concerns

The accelerated rate of BMI increase among individuals with bipolar disorders could lead to a decreased life expectancy when compared to the general population.

The research suggests a risk of trend reversal in mortality rates, which have been declining for the past four decades, particularly for women with bipolar disorders who have higher BMI.

Broader Health Implications

Beyond the impact on mental health and medication effectiveness, obesity presents a myriad of health challenges.

These include a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis, asthma, various forms of cancer, and even failed antibiotic treatment.

A Call for Targeted Intervention

The findings from the study highlight the need for specialized and targeted interventions for individuals with bipolar disorders.

According to the study’s first author, Hemen Najar, “The health consequences of increasing obesity can reverse the decline in premature mortality and comorbidity observed over the last four decades.”


The study provides critical data to healthcare providers and policymakers for designing more targeted prevention and treatment strategies.

It stresses the need for a holistic approach that addresses not only the psychiatric aspects of bipolar disorders but also the increasingly serious issue of obesity among this vulnerable group.

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The research findings can be found in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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