Background: Prior reports suggested that bipolar patients in Taiwan had comparable long-term outcome to Western patients despite markedly lower rates of co-occurring substance use disorders. Thus, predictors of long-term outcome identified from Taiwanese bipolar samples may be less influenced by substance abuse. Methods: One hundred and one patients with bipolar disorder (DSM-III-R) having been naturalistically treated for at least 15 years were recruited. These patients were annually followed for 2 years to assess overall outcome, psychiatric symptoms, rehospitalization, work, and social adjustment. A combination of medical record reviews and direct personal interviews with patients and family members provided the clinical data. Results: Of these patients, 16.8% expressed a poor overall long-term outcome, even though only two (2.0%) patients exhibited alcohol dependence during the follow-up period. Multivariate regression showed that full compliance with medication was the strongest predictor of favorable overall long-term outcome, followed by younger age at onset and male sex. Younger age at onset as well as male sex, but not full compliance, also predicted a favorable psychosocial outcome. Limitations: Recruiting our sample from a clinical population with uncontrollable long-term treatment limits the generalizability of the findings. Conclusions: Compliance with pharmacotherapy is important to achieve a favorable overall long-term outcome of bipolar disorder. A portion of bipolar patients may have an unfavorable psychosocial outcome regardless of the psychopharmacological intervention or presence of substance abuse.
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