Bipolar disorder is a highly heritable mental illness that transmits intergeneratively. Previous studies supported that first-degree relatives (FDRs), such as parents, offspring, and siblings, of patients with bipolar disorder, had a higher risk of bipolar disorder. However, whether FDRs of bipolar patients have an increased risk of schizophrenia, major depressive disorder (MDD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) remains unclear.
Among the entire population in Taiwan, 87 639 patients with bipolar disorder and 188 290 FDRs of patients with bipolar disorder were identified in our study. The relative risks (RRs) of major psychiatric disorders were assessed among FDRs of patients with bipolar disorder.
FDRs of patients with bipolar disorder were more likely to have a higher risk of major psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder (RR 6.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 5.95–6.30), MDD (RR 2.89, 95% CI 2.82–2.96), schizophrenia (RR 2.64, 95% CI 2.55–2.73), ADHD (RR 2.21, 95% CI 2.13–2.30), and ASD (RR 2.10, 95% CI 1.92–2.29), than the total population did. These increased risks for major psychiatric disorders were consistent across different familial kinships, such as parents, offspring, siblings, and twins. A dose-dependent relationship was also found between risk of each major psychiatric disorder and numbers of bipolar patients.
Our study was the first study to support the familial coaggregation of bipolar disorder with other major psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, MDD, ADHD, and ASD, in a Taiwanese (non-Caucasian) population. Given the elevated risks of major psychiatric disorders, the public health government should pay more attention to the mental health of FDRs of patients with bipolar disorder.