• African-American;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • race;
  • registry

Objectives:  The goal of this paper was to compare clinical characteristics and treatment history of African-American and Caucasian participants in a bipolar disorder registry.

Methods:  The Western Pennsylvania Bipolar Disorder Registry used several recruitment methods to reach individuals self-identified as having bipolar disorder. Individuals who contacted and joined the registry completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire on clinical characteristics and treatment history. A sample of 2,718 registry participants was analyzed in order to compare these characteristics and history by race.

Results:  African-Americans in the registry reported a greater number of inpatient hospitalizations (9.8 versus 4.4) than Caucasians, as well as a higher suicide attempt rate (64% versus 49%). African-American participants were more likely to report a family member with schizophrenia. With respect to psychotropic medication, African-Americans were less likely to report taking antimanic medication or benzodiazepines, but more likely to report taking antipsychotics than Caucasians.

Conclusions:  The present findings reinforce previous reports regarding the chronicity and severity of bipolar disorder among African-Americans. They also support previous studies that found high rates of attempted suicide among African-Americans with bipolar disorder. These findings provide further impetus for specific community and mental health services delivery efforts to reduce barriers to early accurate diagnosis and to appropriate ambulatory treatment for bipolar disorder.