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Gender differences discovered in bipolar disorder

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Gender differences were discovered in bipolar disorder, but women did not have higher rates of lifetime depressive episodes, as has been previously reported.

Scientists in the United States conducted a study "To examine gender differences in a large sample of patients with bipolar illness." They performed an "Exploratory analysis of baseline data from the first 500 patients in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD), a multi-center NIMH project."

"Participants are allowed to have medical and psychiatric comorbidities, and to enter in any mood state, thus making the population more generalizable than many research cohorts," explained C. F. Baldassano and colleagues. "Diagnoses and history were assessed using structured clinical instruments administered by certified investigators."

"Given the exploratory nature of these analyses, there is no correction for multiple comparisons," stated the authors. "However, they emphasize findings that are statistically significant at the more stringent p<0.01 level. Compared with men, women had higher rates of BPII (15.3% M versus 29.0% F, p<0.01), comorbid thyroid disease (5.7% M versus 26.9% F, p<0.01), bulimia (1.5% M versus 11.6% F, p<.0.01) and post-traumatic stress disorder (10.6% M versus 20.9% F, p<0.01). Women and men had equal rates of history of lifetime rapid cycling and depressive episodes. Men were more likely to have a history of legal problems (36% M versus 17.5% F, p<0.01)."

The investigators concluded, "Potentially important gender differences in certain illness characteristics were found in their study; however, in contrast to other reports, they did not find higher rates of lifetime depressive episodes or rapid cycling in women. Although their study is limited by its retrospective study design, its results are strengthened by the large sample size and use of structured interviews."

Baldassano and colleagues published their study in Bipolar Disorders (Gender differences in bipolar disorder: retrospective data from the first 500 STEP-BD participants. Bipolar Disord, 2005;7(5):465-470).

For more information, contact C. F. Baldassano, Bipolar Disorders Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, 3535 Market Street, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA, USA; E-mail:

Publisher contact information for the journal Bipolar Disorders is: Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Rd., Oxford OX4 2DQ, Oxon, England.

Keywords: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, Bipolar Disorder, Bulimia, Gender Differences, Mental Health, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Women's Health. This article was prepared by Biotech Week editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2005, Biotech Week via

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