The incidence and prevalence of manic-melancholic syndromes in North West Wales: 1875–2005

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Abstract

Objective

Against a background of recent interest in the concept of melancholia, we report data on the incidence and prevalence of manic, melancholic and postpartum syndromes from North West Wales.

Method

We have utilized a database of the complete records of all admission to the North Wales Asylum from 1875 to 1924, and compared the findings for mania, melancholia, and postpartum psychoses from this sample, with admissions for these disorders to the North West Wales mental health services between 1995 and 2005.

Results

The incidence of bipolar disorder, as well as melancholia with and without psychotic features appears stable from 1875 to 2005 but there has been a dramatic decline in the incidence of de novo onset psychoses in the postpartum period. The prevalence of admissions for bipolar disorder, and for severe depressive disorders has increased dramatically during this period.

Conclusion

There are some grounds for revisiting the concept of manic-melancholic disorder put forward by Rafaelsen. The changes in the incidence of postpartum psychoses may have a wider significance for the affective disorders in general.

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