Exploratory study of ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation and age of onset of bipolar disorder

Int J Bipolar Disord. 2023 Jun 22;11(1):22. doi: 10.1186/s40345-023-00303-w.


Background: Sunlight contains ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation that triggers the production of vitamin D by skin. Vitamin D has widespread effects on brain function in both developing and adult brains. However, many people live at latitudes (about > 40 N or S) that do not receive enough UVB in winter to produce vitamin D. This exploratory study investigated the association between the age of onset of bipolar I disorder and the threshold for UVB sufficient for vitamin D production in a large global sample.

Methods: Data for 6972 patients with bipolar I disorder were obtained at 75 collection sites in 41 countries in both hemispheres. The best model to assess the relation between the threshold for UVB sufficient for vitamin D production and age of onset included 1 or more months below the threshold, family history of mood disorders, and birth cohort. All coefficients estimated at P ≤ 0.001.

Results: The 6972 patients had an onset in 582 locations in 70 countries, with a mean age of onset of 25.6 years. Of the onset locations, 34.0% had at least 1 month below the threshold for UVB sufficient for vitamin D production. The age of onset at locations with 1 or more months of less than or equal to the threshold for UVB was 1.66 years younger.

Conclusion: UVB and vitamin D may have an important influence on the development of bipolar disorder. Study limitations included a lack of data on patient vitamin D levels, lifestyles, or supplement use. More study of the impacts of UVB and vitamin D in bipolar disorder is needed to evaluate this supposition.