Stats show that the United States has the highest rate of bipolar disorder in the world. 4.4% of the nation's population has been diagnosed with BPD at some point in their lives. These high numbers are not restricted only to the U.S., in fact, many developed and high-income countries present similar statistics. When compared with other stats around the world, this number is particularly curious, and researchers are on the hunt to discover why there is such a discrepancy between the U.S. at 4.4%, and Japan at a low 0.7%.
The answer, obviously, is fish oil. An article I read on the topic hypothesizes that the percentage of bipolar disorders may correlate directly to the amount of fish and omega 3s that a person consumes. Sounds pretty legit. I mean, all of those countries with lower numbers generally eat more fish. That must the answer. Never mind that these nations may have social stigmas attached to mental health disorders, and therefore may have a largely undiagnosed population (or the US an overdiagnosed population...but that's a later blog post). What about tighter social networks in these countries with lower rates of BPD? Americans are more distanced from their families than people in other countries who live in the same household.
A professor from John Hopkins has suggested higher rates of BPD in the US may also be due immigration. He says that the risk taking associated with coming to America, starting a new life, business, etc., may result in increased stress and something he calls "Hypomania". He says there is a certain "suspension of belief" that makes these newcomers certain they can succeed at achieving the American dream. These grandiose ideas can result in a type of mania, and perhaps lead to a form of BPD.
The purpose of this post is to point out that we just don't know what causes BPD. It could be a 10 things, could be nothing. Could be that we don't eat enough fish. I think there's more to the equation, and suggesting anything else is limiting the scope of the disorder and limiting the potential to uncover real solutions for people. Sure, fish oil is good for you. There's probably a million reasons why we should all eat more fish. But I highly doubt that BPD is going to be prevented by slapping salmon on your plate for every meal.