"These findings may have implications for prevention and identification of pathogenic mechanisms that lead to" bipolar disorder, concluded the researchers, led by Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of clinical psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
Researchers studied a pool of more than 900 U.S. children. More than 200 had been enrolled in the Child Health and Development Study, which tracked kids born between 1950 and 1966. The remaining 700 participants were controls matched by age and gender, obtained from county health databases.
The researchers found 92 cases of bipolar disorder out of the entire participant pool. After combing through data, their analysis revealed having flu during pregnancy was tied to a four-fold risk increase that offspring would develop bipolar disorder by the time they became adults.
The study was published May 8 in JAMA Psychiatry.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by ups and downs that are more extreme than a person typically experiences. It often develops in a person in their late teens or early 20s, though some people may experience symptoms in childhood, notes the National Institute of Mental Health.
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