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Bipolar Illness and Multigenerational Transmission

Bipolar Disord; ePub 2018 Jun 21; Post, Altshuler, et al

A family history of illness burden in prior generations was previously related to an earlier age of onset of bipolar illness in adult patients with bipolar disorder (BD) and is now also found to be related to the incidence of multiple psychiatric illnesses in their offspring. This according to a recent study that explored the potential multigenerational conveyance across several disorders of the vulnerability to illness in the offspring of a patient with BD. A total of 968 outpatients (average age 41 years) with bipolar illness filled out a detailed questionnaire about a family history in their parents, grandparents, and offspring of depression, BD, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, suicide attempt, or “other” illness. Researchers found:

  • The type of illness seen in both prior generations was associated with the same type of illness in the offspring of a bipolar patient, including depression, BD, alcohol and substance abuse, and “other” illness, but not suicide attempts.
  • There was an impact of multiple generations, such that depression in grandparents and/or great‐grandparents increased the risk of depression in the offspring from 12.6% to 41.4%.

Post RM, Altshuler LL, Kupka, et al. Multigenerational transmission of liability to psychiatric illness in offspring of parents with bipolar disorder. [Published online ahead of print June 21, 2018]. Bipolar Disord. doi:10.1111/bdi.12668.