Bipolar disorder may affect more Americans than previously believed

April 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Pharmaceutical Representative-04-01-2003,

Three times as many people may suffer from bipolar disorder as previously believed.

Results from a landmark nationwide study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (vol. 64, no. 1) show that three times as many people may suffer from bipolar disorder as previously believed. Survey results from more than 85,000 Americans also indicate that up to 80% of those who screened positive had not been diagnosed with the illness and nearly one-third had been misdiagnosed with major depression.

Study results were obtained through the use of the Mood Disorder Questionnaire - a validated screening tool for bipolar disorder - which was distributed to a representative sample of adults, balanced to match the 2000 U.S. Census data for age, gender, region, market size and household income.

"These groundbreaking results demonstrate that bipolar disorder is frequent and often unrecognized," said Robert M.A. Hirschfeld, Titus Harris Chair, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "While previous studies reported a prevalence of approximately 1% of the American population, or 2.3 million Americans, these results suggest that the illness affects millions - nearly 4% of adult Americans."

Data from this study show that bipolar disorder may be most prevalent among young adults (ages 18 to 24) and those with lower incomes.

Lives disrupted

The study also demonstrated the profound impact that bipolar disorder has on the lives of affected patients. Many of those who screened positive for bipolar disorder reported significant alcohol or drug abuse (19%). In addition, positive respondents suffered from significantly higher rates of co-morbid health conditions such as allergies, asthma and migraine.

"Bipolar disorder is a serious, lifelong illness that when left untreated can worsen, with patients experiencing a greater frequency of events," said Lydia Lewis, executive director of the Chicago-based Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. "As bipolar disorder can cause noticeable disruptions in patients' lives and put them at risk for life-threatening events such as drug and alcohol abuse and, sadly, suicide, the results from this study underscore the need for early identification and accurate diagnosis, which would enable patients to manage the illness and live more productive lives." PR

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