Studies exploring disability in bipolar disorder (BD) have primarily assessed clinical samples of full-threshold BD-I and BD-II alongside so-called objective criteria such as unemployment or receipt of government disability payments. This study extends research on disability by examining externally determined and self-identified disability in a community sample and by including subthreshold BD (BDS).
Data were extracted from the USA Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys about individuals who met recognized criteria for BD-I, BD-II and BDS who had completed self-ratings of physical and mental disability, comorbidities, and health risk factors (e.g., obesity). Rates of disability were estimated, and logistic regression analyses were used to determine demographic and clinical variables associated with externally determined and self-identified of disability.
Of 408 individuals who met eligibility criteria (BD-I = 100; BD-II=104; BDS=204), 35% met criteria for externally determined disability, about 40% self-reported mental disability and about 23% self-reported physical disability. The odds were three-fold (Odds Ratio (OR): 3.05; 95% Confidence Intervals (CI): 1.69, 5.53) that someone with self-identified physical disability would meet criteria for externally determined disability, but associations with mental disability were non-significant (OR: 1.06; 95% CI: 0.63, 1.80). Regression analyses demonstrated that mental disability was associated with being a current or past smoker and physical disability was associated with BD-I.
the adequacy of the assessments of disability and definition of BDS can be questioned.
Future clinical and community studies need to consider both externally determined and self-identified disability across the entire Bd spectrum.

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