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The Economic Burden of Bipolar Disease

Scott W. Woods, MD

Published: November 30, 2000

Article Abstract

This article reviews the prevalence of bipolar disorder, as well as the studies quantifying the burdenof illness and cost of illness of this condition. It also discusses barriers to treatment. Multiple epidemiologicstudies suggest a lifetime prevalence of bipolar I disorder of nearly 1%, making it a commonillness. Bipolar illness is not only common, but for those affected, it is a significant source ofdistress, disability, loss of life through suicide, and burden on relatives and other caregivers. In 1990,the World Health Organization identified bipolar disorder as the sixth leading cause of disability-adjustedlife years in the world among people aged 15 to 44 years. Costs to society appear to beroughly 70% of those for schizophrenia. Despite the burden imposed by bipolar illness and the availabilityof several effective treatments for the illness, many bipolar patients in the United States continueto face significant barriers to care.

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