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Mood instability is underinvestigated but potentially clinically important. This study aimed to describe the prevalence of mood instability in adults living in England and test whether it is important in explaining the extent of symptoms of common mental disorders, suicidality and healthcare use. An analysis of data from the adult psychiatric morbidity survey 2007, a household survey of private households in England (N=7403), was completed. The prevalence of mood instability was 13.9%. In univariate analysis it was strongly associated with socio-demographic and clinical variables. In regression modelling mood instability was independently associated with non-psychotic psychopathology, increasing the odds by 9.89. It was also linked with suicidal ideas (odds ratios (OR): 2.04) but not suicidal acts, and associated with being in receipt of medication, counselling or therapy for mental health problems (OR: 1.88), independent of a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Mood instability is relatively common in the adult population, occurs frequently in common mental disorders and appears to be an important symptom in its own right. It is associated with two important measures in psychiatry, namely suicidal thinking and healthcare service use. It warrants more widespread recognition and further research is required to understand if, when and how to intervene.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychiatry Res

Publication Date





262 - 268


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Delivery of Health Care, England, Female, Health Surveys, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Mood Disorders, Prevalence, Sampling Studies, Socioeconomic Factors, Suicide, Young Adult