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Smoking and the risk for bipolar disorder: causal evidence from a bidirectional Mendelian randomization study

By Jentien Vermeulen, Robyn E Wootton, Jorien Treur, Hannah M Sallis, Hannah Jones, Stanley Zammit, Wim van den Brink, Guy Goodwin, Lieuwe de Haan, Marcus R Munafo

Posted 17 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/522268

There is increasing evidence that smoking is a risk factor for severe mental illness, including bipolar disorder. Conversely, patients with bipolar disorder might smoke more (often) as a result of the psychiatric disorder. We aimed to investigate the direction and causal nature of the relationship between smoking and bipolar disorder we conducted a bidirectional Mendelian randomization (MR) study. Publicly available summary statistics from genome-wide association studies on bipolar disorder, smoking initiation, smoking heaviness, smoking cessation and lifetime smoking (i.e., a compound measure of heaviness, duration and cessation). We applied multiple analytical methods with different, orthogonal assumptions to triangulate results, including inverse-variance weighted (IVW), MR-Egger or Egger SIMEX, weighted median, weighted mode, and Steiger filtered analyses. Across different methods of MR, consistent evidence was found for a positive effect of smoking on the odds of bipolar disorder (smoking initiation ORIVW=1.46, 95% CI=1.28-1.66, P=1.44x10-8, lifetime smoking ORIVW=1.72, 95% CI=1.29-2.28, P=1.8x10-4). The MR analyses of the liability of bipolar disorder on smoking provided no clear evidence of a strong causal effect (smoking heaviness betaIVW=0.028, 95% CI= 0.003-0.053, P=2.9x10-2). These findings suggest that smoking initiation and lifetime smoking are likely to be a causal risk factor for developing bipolar disorder. We found some evidence that liability to bipolar disorder increased smoking heaviness. Given that smoking is a modifiable risk factor, these findings further support investment into smoking prevention and treatment in order to reduce mental health problems in future generations.

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