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Research Bipolar depression
This release was written and distributed by Reed Weir Communications on behalf of Eli Lilly Australia.
Published: 17/08/2005

New study results from 11th Annual National Health Outcomes Conference

Interim results of the Bipolar Comprehensive Outcomes Study (BCOS) revealed today show that people with bipolar disorder face such difficult issues in their every-day functioning that the condition significantly diminishes their overall quality of life. Career problems, personal relationships and the ability to participate in many day-to-day activities are among the areas affected by the disorder.

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, psychiatrist and director of Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre in Melbourne, and Professor Michael Berk, Director of Barwon Health in Geelong, are conducting the ongoing national qualitative study. The two researchers presented results obtained from the initial data at the annual conference of the Australian Health Outcomes Collaboration in Canberra today.

According to Professor Kulkarni, Chief Investigator of the BCOS research team, results so far have been fascinating for consumers, carers and mental health professionals alike because, even in an age of advanced medicine, there is still much to learn about the humanistic aspects of psychiatric conditions like bipolar disorder.

"We are learning more about the significant differences between men and women with bipolar illness - in how they present with the condition, at what stage in their lives and how they juggle their life and moods. This study allows us to learn, directly from the people who experience bipolar disorder, what constitutes their ongoing successes and failures," said Professor Kulkarni.

Results Highlights

BCOS data indicate that the divorce rate among people with bipolar disorder is twice that of the general population, with the majority rating their romantic life satisfaction as only "fair" or "good".1

Prof Kulkarni said social relationships are one of the most prominent areas of discontent for people with bipolar disorder. This is because the unpredictability of mood is often too much for people, including close friends and family to cope with, making long-term relationships difficult to maintain.

BCOS study data indicate that the suicide rate for people with bipolar disorder is 15 times greater than that of the general population.1

Frighteningly, the lifetime risk of suicide for people with bipolar disorder is 15 per cent.2 Each year, almost 300 Australians with the condition will take their own lives, representing 12 per cent of all suicides.

Career dislocation is a big issue for people with bipolar disorder, because the condition generally manifests itself around the ages of 25 to 30, when careers are just beginning to take shape. The loss or inability to manage full-time work can affect self-esteem, income and life choices significantly.1

"BCOS results are assisting professionals to gain insights into the quality of life issues faced by people with bipolar disorder," said Professor Kulkarni.

"Each morsel of knowledge we discover about the disorder helps us to fill the gaps with improved psychosocial interventions and pharmacological treatments. The greater our understanding, the more apparent it is that our mental health services lag behind the general health system in terms of funding, innovation and attention," she said.

  1. One in 200 people will experience bipolar disorder in any 12-month period.2
  2. The financial costs of the disorder to the Australian community amount to $1.59 billion.
  3. The burden or impact of bipolar disorder in terms of pain, suffering, disability and death is greater than that of ovarian cancer or HIV /AIDS.2
  4. Bipolar disorder (also described as manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy and ability to function.
  5. Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings from unusually elated or irritable to sad and hopeless, and back again. Severe changes in a person's energy and behaviour occur with these changes in mood.The high moods are called mania or hypomania and the low mood is called depression and there are often periods of stable mood in between.
  1. Bipolar Comprehensive Outcomes Study. 2005. (BCOS is a two-year observational study funded by Eli Lilly Australia)
  2. Bipolar Disorder Costs. An Access Economics Report. SANE Australia 2003

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