Over the past decade, the clinical recognition and treatment of bipolar disorder (BD) in youth have increased significantly; however, little is known about prevalence of and service use for this disorder at a population level. The objective of this study was to measure the lifetime prevalence of BD, and to describe the socio-demographics, comorbidities, and use of mental health services among 15-24-year-olds with BD.
Data were extracted from the Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health and Well-being (CCHS 1.2), a representative population-based survey of 36,984 people age 15 and older. Among subjects age 15-18 and 19-24 (N=5673), we calculated lifetime prevalence rates of BD and report the demographic and clinical characteristics and rates of service use of this sample.
The weighted lifetime prevalence of BD was 3.0% among 15-24-year-olds (N=191): 2.1% among 15-18-year-olds, and 3.8% among 19-24-year-olds. Rates of psychiatric comorbidity were high, with anxiety disorders, problematic substance use, and suicidality present among nearly half of the sample. Mental health services were accessed in the previous 12 months by 56.1% of youth with BD.
The questionnaire used in CCHS 1.2 relied on self-report, limiting its applicability to this younger sample.
BD is particularly common among young adults and there are specific factors associated with BD in youth. Nearly half of all youth with BD have never used mental health services, suggesting that clinicians should be more vigilant about the signs and symptoms of BD in young people.