Unipolar and bipolar patients with a chronic illness pattern were investigated to determine whether they experienced a higher number of life events prior to the onset of recurrent affective episodes.
The study participants consisted of 27 recovered bipolar patients, 24 recovered unipolar patients and 26 healthy control subjects. Life events and psychiatric status were assessed by bimonthly interviews over the period of one year using the Inventory for Recent Life Events and the Research Diagnostic Criteria.
In both unipolar and bipolar patients, analyses revealed no significant differences in the number of life events experienced, irrespective of whether the patients had presented with a depressive episode of at least minor intensity during the study (all P > 0.1). Specifically, an increase in marital problems was observed in bipolar patients prior to the onset of recurrent hypomanic and manic episodes (P=0.06).
The causal association between life events and the onset of depression, shown to be relevant in non-chronically depressed subjects, does not apply in chronic affective disorders. In addition, our results suggest that marital events have an impact on the onset of recurrent hypomanic and manic episodes.