Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 279–292

The epidemiology of bipolar affective disorder

  • P. Bebbington
  • R. Ramana

DOI: 10.1007/BF00805795

Cite this article as:
Bebbington, P. & Ramana, R. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (1995) 30: 279. doi:10.1007/BF00805795


This paper reviews the current position of studies on the epidemiology of bipolar affective disorder. A disorder that cannot be recognized until sometime after its onset poses special difficulties for epidemiological study. These are discussed and attempts made to solve them. Community psychiatric surveys suggest a morbid risk of bipolar disorder of around 2–2.5%, but probably include many false-positives. Studies of treated cases indicate a morbid risk of 0.5%, but will miss untreated cases. It is probably reasonable to suggest a compromise value of 1–1.5%; bipolar disorder is thus still a rare condition. It is possible to quantify the unipolar-bipolar conversion rate, which is of the order of 5%, and it is of particular interest that female sufferers have proportionately fewer manic episodes. Age at onset, possible cohort phenomena, comorbidity, and sociodemographic correlates are discussed.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Bebbington
    • 1
  • R. Ramana
    • 2
  1. 1.MRC Social & Community Psychiatry UnitInstitute of PsychiatryLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Cambridge, Level F4, Addenbrookes HospitalCambridgeUK