People with bipolar disorder are missing out on treatment for common physical health problems such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, according to new research presented to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ International Congress in Edinburgh.

The research, led by Dr Daniel Martin, Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow, looked at the records of 1,751,841 registered patients within 314 primary care practices in Scotland. Those patients with bipolar disorder were identified, and the remaining patients acted as a control group. For all patients, the presence of the 32 commonest chronic physical health conditions were extracted, alongside prescribing patterns for coronary heart disease (CHD) and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Compared to controls, those people with bipolar disorder were significantly less likely to have no recorded physical health conditions, and were significantly more likely to have one or more physical health conditions. Those with bipolar disorder had significantly higher rates of thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disorders, chronic pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and diabetes.

Surprisingly, people with bipolar were less likely to have been diagnosed with hypertension or CHD. However, those people with bipolar disorder who had been diagnosed with hypertension or CHD were less likely to be prescribed antihypertensive medication, and less likely to be on two or more types of hypertensive.

The study, which looked at the records of over 1.75million patients within 314 primary care practices in Scotland, is further evidence that people with severe mental illness experience worse physical health and are at greater risk of premature mortality.

Lead researcher Dr Daniel Martin said: “Our study shows that people with bipolar disorder often have multiple physical health conditions, but are less likely to have a record of cardiovascular disease – perhaps because it is going undiagnosed in this group Those with a recorded diagnosis of coronary heart disease or hypertension were less likely to be treated, and may be treated less intensively. This systematic under-recognition and under-treatment of cardiovascular disease is likely to contribute to a higher risk of premature mortality for people with bipolar disorder, and needs to be addressed.”

For more information, contact Dr Daniel Martin, University of Glasgow on daniel.martin@glasgow.ac.uk

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