Objective. This retrospective analysis of a large Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) database evaluated differences in clinical presentation, health service use, and use of psychotropic medications between older and younger adults with bipolar disorder. Methods: The results presented in this article focus on veterans with bipolar disorder who were active in the VA's National Psychosis Registry in federal fiscal year 2001 (FY01). Results: The registry listed 65,556 individuals as having bipolar disorder in FY01. In FY01, nearly 25 percent of veterans with bipolar disorder (more than 16,000 individuals) were aged 60 years or older, and more than 10 percent were aged 70 years or older. Elderly persons were hospitalized at similar or slightly lower rates than middle-aged persons but tended to have longer hospital stays. Use of out-patient services was also higher in older populations. Patterns of use of psychotropic medications indicated that valproate is the most commonly used mood-stabilizing agent in the VA, in use by 72.9 percent of patients who receive a mood stabilizer. Use of lithium is substantial as well, with more than 40 percent of patients taking this agent. In addition, just over 40 percent of all veterans with bipolar disorder receive antipsychotic medication. Conclusions: Bipolar disorder affects large numbers of veterans across the entire life span, and use of VA resources by this population becomes greater with advancing age. Data from this study provide new information about the unique treatment requirements and clinical presentations of older patients with bipolar disorder.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health