Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 279–292 | Cite as

The epidemiology of bipolar affective disorder

  • P. Bebbington
  • R. Ramana


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.


Public Health Epidemiological Study Bipolar Disorder Conversion Rate Affective Disorder 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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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

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