In October 2021, Bipolar UK presented the early findings of the Bipolar Commission. This first report focuses on what bipolar is, what triggers it, how long it takes to get a diagnosis, the impact of a delay in diagnosis and the risks of living with the condition.

Read a summary of the report

Read the full report

Sign our petition asking for faster bipolar diagnosis

Key findings include:

  • There's an average delay of 9.5 years between someone first contacting a health professional about symptoms and getting an accurate diagnosis of bipolar
  • 60% of people say a delay in diagnosis of bipolar had a significant impact on their life
  • 84% of people say a diagnosis is helpful or very helpful

A diagnosis of bipolar means someone can get effective treatment and support and learn self-management techniques to live well with bipolar. 

The findings have been analysed by Healthcare Economist Professor Paul McCrone and are based on the collated evidence of 2500 responses to surveys of people with bipolar, five regional summits, 30 stakeholders, 20 commissioners and expert advisors and the following project board:

  • Professor Guy Goodwin, co-chair of the Bipolar Commission, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Oxford and 
  • Dr Clare Dolman, co-chair of the Bipolar Commission and member of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London
  • Professor Allan Young, Chair of Mood Disorders and Director of the Centre for Affective Disorders Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London (Trustee)
  • Professor Ian Jones, Cardiff University/ Director/Clinical Professor, National Centre for Mental Health (Surveys)
  • Dr Thomas Richardson, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Southampton University (Data analysis)
  • Simon Kitchen, CEO of Bipolar UK (Project Sponsor)

The aim of the Commission is to dramatically reduce the number of lives lost to suicide in the bipolar community each year:

  • 1 in 20 people who take their own life in the UK have a diagnosis of bipolar [i]
  • Someone with bipolar has a suicide risk that’s at least 20 times greater than someone without bipolar [ii], which is higher than someone with major depressive disorder 

And while it’s impossible to get an exact figure [iii], these figures are very likely to be a massive underestimate.   

The Bipolar Commission was launched at the Bipolar UK annual conference on World Bipolar Day 2021. The full report of the findings will be presented at the annual conference next World Bipolar Day (30 March 2022).

References

[i] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0004867415594427 

[ii] Literature Reviews, L. Plans 2019 / Pompili M, Gonda X, Serafini G, Innamorati M, Sher L, et al. (2013)

[iii] It is impossible to get an exact figure because suicide data sets tend to be limited and are slow to update; there has been very little research funding into understanding the number of suicides in people with bipolar; and there are big grey areas like the number of people who remain undiagnosed and misdiagnosed.