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Can body mass index help predict outcome in patients with bipolar disorder?


  • None of the authors declares any conflict of interest with respect to the treatments investigated by this study.

  • Results of this study were presented at the annual conference of the American Psychiatric Association, May 3–8, 2008, Washington DC, USA.

Corresponding author:
Martin Alda, MD, FRCPC
Department of Psychiatry
Dalhousie University
5909 Veterans Memorial Lane
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 2E2, Canada
Fax: 902-473-4877


Objective:  Several studies have reported higher prevalence of obesity in patients suffering from bipolar disorder (BD). To study the relation of elevated body mass index (BMI) in patients with BD more closely, we investigated differences in sociodemographic, clinical, and medical characteristics with respect to BMI, with the hypothesis that BMI is related to prognosis and outcome.

Methods:  We measured the BMI of 276 subjects of a tertiary care sample from the Maritime Bipolar Registry. Subjects were 16 to 83 years old, with psychiatric diagnoses of bipolar I disorder (n = 186), bipolar II disorder (n = 85), and BD not otherwise specified (n = 5). The registry included basic demographic data and details of the clinical presentation. We first examined the variables showing a significant association with BMI; subsequently, we modeled the relationship between BMI and psychiatric outcome using structural equation analysis.

Results:  The prevalence of obesity in our sample was 39.1%. We found higher BMI in subjects with a chronic course (p < 0.001) and longer duration of illness (p = 0.02), lower scores on the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (p = 0.02), and on disability (p = 0.002). Overweight patients had more frequent comorbid subthreshold social (p = 0.02) and generalized anxiety disorders (p = 0.05), diabetes mellitus type II (p < 0.001), and hypertension (p = 0.001). Subjects who achieved complete remission of symptoms on lithium showed significantly lower BMI (p = 0.01).

Conclusions:  Our findings suggest that BMI is associated with the prognosis and outcome of BD. Whether this association is causal remains to be determined.