Context: Although bipolar disorder is associated with various adverse health outcomes, the relationship with violent crime is uncertain.
Objectives: To determine the risk of violent crime in bipolar disorder and to contextualize the findings with a systematic review.
Design: Longitudinal investigations using general population and unaffected sibling control individuals.
Setting: Population-based registers of hospital discharge diagnoses, sociodemographic information, and violent crime in Sweden from January 1, 1973, through December 31, 2004.
Participants: Individuals with 2 or more discharge diagnoses of bipolar disorder (n = 3743), general population controls (n = 37 429), and unaffected full siblings of individuals with bipolar disorder (n = 4059).
Main outcome measure: Violent crime (actions resulting in convictions for homicide, assault, robbery, arson, any sexual offense, illegal threats, or intimidation).
Results: During follow-up, 314 individuals with bipolar disorder (8.4%) committed violent crime compared with 1312 general population controls (3.5%) (adjusted odds ratio, 2.3; 95% confidence interval, 2.0-2.6). The risk was mostly confined to patients with substance abuse comorbidity (adjusted odds ratio, 6.4; 95% confidence interval, 5.1-8.1). The risk increase was minimal in patients without substance abuse comorbidity (adjusted odds ratio, 1.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.0-1.5), which was further attenuated when unaffected full siblings of individuals with bipolar disorder were used as controls (1.1; 0.7-1.6). We found no differences in rates of violent crime by clinical subgroups (manic vs depressive or psychotic vs nonpsychotic). The systematic review identified 8 previous studies (n = 6383), with high heterogeneity between studies. Odds ratio for violence risk ranged from 2 to 9.
Conclusion: Although current guidelines for the management of individuals with bipolar disorder do not recommend routine risk assessment for violence, this assertion may need review in patients with comorbid substance abuse.