Is bipolar disorder more common in highly intelligent people? Mol Psychiatry.Feb. 2013


Is  bipolar disorder more common among individuals with higher intelligence and exceptional creativity?  Epidemiological evidence so far is not good enough for  firm conclusions.Studies that support this notion has problems ( for example: not having enough power to detect the link).Both bipolar disorder and high intelligence are uncommon in general population and only a large study can look in to this relationship.

CR Gale, GD Batty,AM McIntosh, DJ Porteous, IJ Deary and F Rasmussen used  data from over a million Swedish men to investigate this.  Military Service Conscription Register  ( medical examination, intelligence assessment, interview by psychologist, assessment from psychiatrist if needed) and hospital discharge register provided the key information.


0.3% were hospitalised with bipolar disorder during the follow-up period (The mean follow-up period was 22 years). Of this 3174 men,  1079 (34%)  had the bipolar disorder in a pure form (.ie 74% had many other conditions diagnosed during this period).

Risk of hospitalisation with any form of bipolar disorder fell in a stepwise manner as intelligence increased.Adjustment for age, year of conscription, conscription-testing centre, parental age and parental social class had little effect on this association. This suggest that high intelligence may confer resilience to several forms of psychiatric comorbidity. 

What about those with pure bipolar disorder? Men with the highest intelligence, particularly as regards verbal and technical ability, were at increased risk compared with those of average ability. This association was stronger if a more restrictive definition of bipolar disorder is used.  There is an increased risk of pure bipolar disorder in men with the highest verbal or technical abilities.

Authors remind readers that  IQ is not an effective discriminator of which individuals go on to have hospital treatment for this disorder as hazard ratios are of small magnitude.

Limitations:Cases of bipolar disorder during the follow-up period were defined on the basis of hospital admission ie only those who were admitted were accounted for.Diagnosis was made clinically.( i.e. no standardised interview).Only men were studied.

Conclusions: High intelligence may  be a risk factor for bipolar disorder ( in its pure form) at least in men.

Summary of the article:

Is bipolar disorder more common in highly intelligent people? A cohort study of a million men.

Gale CR, Batty GD, McIntosh AM, Porteous DJ, Deary IJ, Rasmussen F.Mol Psychiatry. 2013 Feb;18(2):190-4.

2 thoughts on “Is bipolar disorder more common in highly intelligent people? Mol Psychiatry.Feb. 2013

  1. I read the todays article.
    I do’nt agree with it. Highly intelligent people are usually well off,can cope easily to stress relating situations. Have better job opportunities and have better capacity to adjust themseves. In areas like Kashmir usually the symptoms appear in stressful situations and at times of emotional upsets and most of our indoor patients of Bipolar disorder are of average intelligence.
    More over study is based upon hospital record. It is not the record which is important, it is the examination of the mental state according to a structured interview which will give a diagnosis.

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