A Costly Disorder

Posted on July 22, 2009

Bipolar Disorder is one of the most costly of the psychiatric conditions, says David J. Kupfer (bio).

 

If one were to look at global burden of disability and to look at the fact that depression is certainly way up there in terms of global disability around the world, and you were to drill down and say, "Okay, let's look at the worst aspect of depressive disorders around the world." You would easily come up with bipolar disorder.

And so as a disorder, it is the most costly, most burdensome per square inch, in terms of cost to the psychiatric care and medical care of any psychiatric disorder. Now given the suffering cost and the economic cost, it is vitally important that there be a critical mass of talent working in these areas, which range from basic science models to development of new interventions, new medications, to dealing with care and intervention at the earliest point with youngsters and adolescents who may be prone to develop bipolar disorder, to making sure that individuals who have it, in terms of prevention of future episodes, we do our best.

We also need experts in thinking about economics and what the possibilities are of reducing the health costs. One of the other aspects about bipolar disorder, outside of the fact that so many of these people, if they're not treated early, develop other psychiatric problems, particularly alcohol and drug abuse.

And we do believe and there's increasing evidence to suggest that if we don't intervene early enough, they are most prone to develop medical risk factors. They're smoking, the obesity leads to a huge excessive amount than you would expect of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

And then to top it off, it's very difficult to deal with the bipolar disorder and study it in the elderly because they've all died from medical conditions 20 to 25 years earlier than individuals, their peers, who don't have bipolar disorder. So for all those reasons, we need a cadre of dedicated, young, and not so young, people working in this area, if not to eradicate it, at least to do an infinitely better job than we are because it is so costly to our society.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2009 Career Development Institute for Bipolar Disorder in Pittsburgh, PA.

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