Young people at risk for developing bipolar disorder: Two-year findings from the multicenter prospective, naturalistic Early-BipoLife study

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Early identification and intervention of individuals with an increased risk for bipolar disorder (BD) may improve the course of illness and prevent long‑term consequences. Early-BipoLife, a multicenter, prospective, naturalistic study, examined risk factors of BD beyond family history in participants aged 15-35 years. At baseline, positively screened help-seeking participants (screenBD at-risk) were recruited at Early Detection Centers and in- and outpatient depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) settings, references (Ref) drawn from a representative cohort. Participants reported sociodemographics and medical history and were repeatedly examined regarding psychopathology and the course of risk factors. N = 1,083 screenBD at-risk and n = 172 Ref were eligible for baseline assessment. Within the first two years, n = 31 screenBD at-risk (2.9 %) and none of Ref developed a manifest BD. The cumulative transition risk was 0.0028 at the end of multistep assessment, 0.0169 at 12 and 0.0317 at 24 months (p = 0.021). The transition rate with a BD family history was 6.0 %, 4.7 % in the Early Phase Inventory for bipolar disorders (EPIbipolar), 6.6 % in the Bipolar Prodrome Interview and Symptom Scale-Prospective (BPSS-FP) and 3.2 % with extended Bipolar At-Risk - BARS criteria). In comparison to help-seeking young patients from psychosis detection services, transition rates in screenBD at-risk participants were lower. The findings of Early-BipoLife underscore the importance of considering risk factors beyond family history in order to improved early detection and interventions to prevent/ameliorate related impairment in the course of BD. Large long-term cohort studies are crucial to understand the developmental pathways and long-term course of BD, especially in people at- risk.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-53
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Early online date30 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

External IDs

Scopus 85175466789
ORCID /0000-0002-2666-859X/work/146643985
ORCID /0000-0003-4286-5830/work/148143973
ORCID /0000-0002-3974-7115/work/148144899
ORCID /0000-0002-0374-342X/work/149439232
ORCID /0000-0002-3415-5583/work/150329707


DFG Classification of Subject Areas according to Review Boards

Sustainable Development Goals


  • Bipolar disorder, Early detection, Longitudinal, Prevention, Risk factors, Prospective Studies, Risk Assessment, Bipolar Disorder/diagnosis, Humans, Risk Factors, Adolescent, Psychotic Disorders