Bipolar Facts*by marya hornbacher

Bipolar Facts*


• American adults who have bipolar: 5.8 million (2.8% of U.S. population)

• Position of bipolar on the World Health Organization’s ranking of causes of disability worldwide: 7

• Year the Surgeon General gave his first-ever report on mental illness: 1999


• Life expectancy of an adult with serious mental illness: 25 years shorter than that of a person without.

• Bipolar patients who have attempted suicide: 25%.

• Bipolar patients whose suicide attempts have been lethal: 15-20%. This is the highest suicide rate of any psychiatric disorder, and more than 20 times higher than the rate of suicide in the general population. About half of all suicides in the U.S. can be attributed to bipolar.


• Bipolar people who are not being treated at any given time: approximately 50%

• Bipolar and schizophrenic people who have no insurance: 50%. The diagnosis of mental illness makes it far more difficult to get, and keep, health insurance, and mental illness makes it far more difficult to get, and keep, health insurance, and most health insurance offers only a limited amount of coverage for mental health services and medications.)


• Year the term ‘manic-depressive insanity’ was first used in medical texts: 1896

• Year the term bipolar was first used: 1980

• Year the first medication (lithium) was discovered to have effect on manic patients: 1948

• Year the first medication designed specifically to treat bipolar was developed: still waiting


• Average age of onset: 23

• Average age of correct diagnosis: 40

• Average number of years it takes a bipolar person or their family to seek treatment from the onset of symptoms: 10

• Number of bipolar sufferers who have been misdiagnosed at least once: 70-75%.


• Number of patients taking a mood stabilizer who go off their medication because of side effects, the desire for manic energy, or impaired insight: 50%

• Number one risk factor for relapse into a bipolar episode: going off your meds


• Odds that a person with bipolar I will also struggle with substance abuse: 60:40

• Odds that a person with bipolar II will: 50:50

• Rate of alcoholism in bipolar men: Three times higher than in the general population

• In bipolar women: Seven times higher than in the general population

• Divorce rates for people with bipolar: twice as high during their first marriage than for people with any other psychiatric disorder, and three and a half times more likely to divorce than people in the general population


• Annual direct and indirect costs of bipolar disorder in America: $45 billion

• Rate of increase of emergency department visits by people whose primary diagnosis was mental illness between 2000-2003: Four times that of all other emergency department visits

• Major causes of this increase: the lack of effective treatments and coordination of care for people with mental illness; and the inability to obtain those treatments by a population of which only 50% is insured.

• Major cause of lack of insurance by mentally ill people: rejection by insurance providers on the basis of mental illness.

• Primary cause of a lack of effective treatments and coordination of care: insufficient research funds.

• Projected research funding for the 2008 National Institutes of Health:

o Diabetes: slightly over $1 billion

o Depression: $334 million

o Schizophrenia: $363 million

o Bipolar: Amount not included in NIH’s 2008 report; estimated at below

$250 million

o Other brain disorders (not including Alzheimer’s, which receives $642 million): $4.7 billion


* These figures are drawn from a number of sources (medical and psychological periodicals, policy reports and budgets, books published within the past seven years (most listed in the bibliography) and other sources. The numbers I’ve used are those most consistently cited across the literature; there is some variation between sources, and different studies come up with a range of conclusions. However, these numbers are representative of common conclusions in the research. By the time this book is published, the precise percentages may have changed, but they all indicate consistent trends.


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