I’ve touched on the issue of people with bipolar disorder having shorter life expectancy before, but upon doing some research I feel the need to go into it a little deeper. First of all, is it true? The bad news is the answer is “yes.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder have an average lifespan that is 9.2 years less than the U.S. national average. The good news is that there is something you can do about it. The additional bad news is that it ain’t easy.
To begin with why so young? The primary factors seem to be
Greater Risk of Chronic Disease
Lack of medical care.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Among those with bipolar disorder 20% successfully commit suicide annually. Although women attempt suicide more than men, almost four times as many males as females die by suicide. One of the primary reasons for this discrepancy is that men and women differ on methods used. 56% of men use firearms compared to 30% of women. 13% of men use poison compared to 40% of women. Suffocation is nearly equal being 24% of men and 21% of women. To put it simply, firearms have a higher success rate than poisoning.
Many people say that committing suicide is a selfish act that only serves to permanently scar the loved ones you’ve left behind. I use to be one of them, but I looked back on my life and I’ve changed my thoughts. When I was at my worse, before medications kicked in, suicide was on my mind constantly and the only thing that kept me from going through with it were thoughts of my beautiful daughter and how devastating it would be for her. However, what about those times that I was on the verge of suicide and was either taken away by police or taken to the emergency room? What changed was that I thoroughly convinced myself that during those moments that everyone would be happier and better off without me, including my daughter. While I have not seen any studies on this subject, I’ve had conversations with others with suicide attempts and have gotten the same response. So, how does one get from a place that they know suicide inflicts pain on their loved ones to a place that they believe it is best for all? I wish I had the answer to that. I think it’d be an important study. Changing that thought process. I believe, would save many lives.
If you know someone who is talking about suicide, take it seriously. Urge them to get help from their doctor or the emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is available 24/7.
Given the high rate of suicides (20 %) amongst those with bipolar, is it any wonder that our average life expectancy is so low? It’s one aspect, but there are other factors as well. Over the next few days I’ll touch on chronic disease and lack of medical care, what their effects are and what you can do about them.