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International Journal of Bipolar Disorders

, 4:17

First Online: 24 August 2016Received: 25 June 2016Accepted: 09 August 2016


BackgroundInformation seeking is an important coping mechanism for dealing with chronic illness. Despite a growing number of mental health websites, there is little understanding of how patients with bipolar disorder use the Internet to seek information.

MethodsA 39 question, paper-based, anonymous survey, translated into 12 languages, was completed by 1222 patients in 17 countries as a convenience sample between March 2014 and January 2016. All patients had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder from a psychiatrist. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and generalized estimating equations to account for correlated data.

Results976 81 % of 1212 valid responses of the patients used the Internet, and of these 750 77 % looked for information on bipolar disorder. When looking online for information, 89 % used a computer rather than a smartphone, and 79 % started with a general search engine. The primary reasons for searching were drug side effects 51 %, to learn anonymously 43 %, and for help coping 39 %. About 1-3 rated their search skills as expert, and 2-3 as basic or intermediate. 59 % preferred a website on mental illness and 33 % preferred Wikipedia. Only 20 % read or participated in online support groups. Most patients 62 % searched a couple times a year. Online information seeking helped about 2-3 to cope 41 % of the entire sample. About 2-3 did not discuss Internet findings with their doctor.

ConclusionOnline information seeking helps many patients to cope although alternative information sources remain important. Most patients do not discuss Internet findings with their doctor, and concern remains about the quality of online information especially related to prescription drugs. Patients may not rate search skills accurately, and may not understand limitations of online privacy. More patient education about online information searching is needed and physicians should recommend a few high quality websites.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-s40345-016-0058-0 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

An erratum to this article is available at

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Autor: Jörn Conell - Rita Bauer - Tasha Glenn - Martin Alda - Raffaella Ardau - Bernhard T. Baune - Michael Berk - Yuly Bersuds


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