Research has been done on adolescent and adult bipolar disorder, but few studies have focused specifically on the college-age population. Ketter said he believes adults shouldn't be considered a monolithic group; unlike middle-aged and older adults, patients in early adulthood haven't had decades of episodes and may be easier to treat.
His team conducted a review to assess the illness severity and prognosis of this often overlooked group. They examined the cases of 42 bipolar college students, each of whom was enrolled in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder, the largest treatment study ever conducted for the disease. The average age of the patients was just under 22 and the average age of illness onset was just over 16. Prior hospitalizations (64 percent) and anxiety disorders (63 percent) were common; in addition, 43 percent had a history of heavy marijuana use, 37 percent had a history of alcohol abuse and 26 percent had attempted suicide.
The research team found that the patients' average scores on the Clinical Global Impression, or CGI scale (a marker of a person's mental illness) and on the Global Assessment of Function scale (which rates overall psychological, social and occupational functioning) improved significantly during treatment. It also found the percentage of patients with "syndromal episodes," which are clinically significant episodes of depression or mood elevation, fell from 48 percent to 12 percent. The patients were on an average of 2.4 medications - fewer than the general adult average of four drugs.
"In general this group wasn't on a lot of medications and had a good prognosis," said Ketter. "The patients were responsive to medication and relatively easy to treat."
Researchers also identified a subset of 13 patients with a first-degree (parent or sibling) family history of bipolar disorder, and found less favorable outcomes. When compared with patients wh
Contact: Michelle Brandt
Stanford University Medical Center