Question: Are certain ethnic or cultural groups more likely to get bipolar disorder?
Answer: It's very interesting to look at the influence of ethnicity and cultural groups.
And if you went around the world, you would have no problem -- whether you were in India, Indonesia, or Indiana -- recognizing people have the same disorder. In fact, the very same proportions of patients in each of those cultures will express bipolar disorder.
What is actually interesting in that regard, given the consistency around the world of the expression of this disorder, is that among people who have emigrated, let's say from Caribbean islands to the United Kingdom or Mexicans who have crossed to the United States, the actual expression of bipolar disorder and other severe psychiatric illnesses is the same as it is in the population that those people have left.
On the other hand, their children tend to have higher rates of severe mental illness, including bipolar, by a factor of as much as tenfold.
And I think what we can understand from that is that the loss of the benefits of being part of an intact extended family and cultural system may result in a higher tendency to express this illness.