Long-Term Lithium Use Effective in Older Adults With MDD, Bipolar Disorder

Lithium use was associated with lower intensity of depressive symptoms, reduced clinical severity, and lower benzodiazepine use.

Long-term use of lithium was associated with improved psychiatric and physical outcomes in older patients with bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder (MDD), according to study data published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Researchers retrospectively studied cross-sectional data of 281 patients aged 55 years and older with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and MDD. Among the cohort, patients receiving lithium (n=44) were compared with those not receiving lithium (n=237).

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The effects of long-term therapy on psychiatric outcomes, such as depressive symptoms, cognitive function, and history of psychiatric admission, in addition to other physical outcomes, were assessed. The analyses were statistically adjusted for potential confounding variables, including smoking status, age, and concomitant medication use.

After analysis, the researchers found that lithium use was associated with a lesser severity of depressive symptoms, perceived clinical severity, and reduced benzodiazepine use (all P <.05).

In addition, long-term use was not associated with higher rates of other comorbidities, with the exception of hypothyroidism (14.8% vs 1.0%; P =.003).

The researchers acknowledged that a key limitation of the study was the use of cross-sectional data.

“Future prospective studies are needed to extend our knowledge about long-term lithium therapy efficacy and tolerability in this vulnerable population,” they concluded.

Disclosure: One study author declared affiliations with the pharmaceutical industry. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Morlet E, Costemale-Lacoste JF, Poulet E, et al. Psychiatric and physical outcomes of long-term use of lithium in older adults with bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder: a cross-sectional multicenter study. J Affect Disord. 2019;259:210-217.