The British Journal of Psychiatry
Life events and relapse in established bipolar affective disorder.
H McPherson, P Herbison, S Romans


A New Zealand cohort of 58 patients with bipolar affective disorder was studied prospectively with three-monthly interviews in order to determine the relationship between life events and their relapses. Careful attention was paid to dating life events and the earliest signs of relapse and to assessing the independence of life events from the illness. No statistically significant association was found between life events and the likelihood of relapses, either mania or depression, for the 71% of patients who experienced at least one relapse during the two-year study. This finding is at variance with a companion study, with identical methodology, which found a small increase of life events before relapse. These data add further weight to the previous reports that life events are significant precipitants of bipolar illness only for earlier episodes in the course of this chronic disorder.