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Health-Related Quality of Life and Functioning of Middle-Aged and Elderly Adults With Bipolar Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67(2):215-221

Objective: Data characterizing bipolar disorder in older people are scarce, particularly on functional status. We evaluated health-related quality of life and functioning (HRQoLF) among older outpatients with bipolar disorder as well as the relationship of HRQoLF to bipolar illness characteristics.

Method: We compared community-dwelling middle-aged and older adults (age range, 45 to 85 years) with bipolar disorder (N = 54; mean age = 57.6 years), schizophrenia (N = 55; mean age = 58.5 years), or no psychiatric illnesses (N = 38; mean age = 64.7 years) on indicators of objective functioning (e.g., education, occupational attainment, medical comorbidity) and health status (e.g., Quality of Well-Being scale [QWB] and the Medical Outcomes Study-Short Form Health Survey [SF-36]). Within the group with bipolar disorder, we examined the relationship between HRQoLF and clinical variables (e.g., phase and duration of illness, psychotic symptoms, cognitive functioning).

Results: Patients with bipolar disorder were similar in educational and occupational attainment to the normal comparison group, but they obtained lower scores on the QWB and SF-36 (with large effect sizes). Compared with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder was associated with better educational and work histories but similar QWB and SF-36 scores and more medical comorbidity. Patients in remission from bipolar disorder had QWB scores that were worse than those of normal comparison subjects. Greater severity of psychotic and depressive symptoms and cognitive impairment were associated with lower HRQoLF.

Conclusions: Bipolar disorder was associated with substantial disability in this sample of older adults, similar in severity to schizophrenia. Remission of bipolar disorder was associated with significant but incomplete improvement in functioning, whereas psychotic and depressive symptoms and cognitive impairment seemed to contribute to lower HRQoLF.