Background: The world population is aging and the number of older adults with bipolar disorder is increasing. Digital technologies are viewed as a framework to improve care of older adults with bipolar disorder. This analysis quantifies Internet use by older adults with bipolar disorder as part of a larger survey project about information seeking.
Methods: A paper-based survey about information seeking by patients with bipolar disorder was developed and translated into 12 languages. The survey was anonymous and completed between March 2014 and January 2016 by 1222 patients in 17 countries. All patients were diagnosed by a psychiatrist. General estimating equations were used to account for correlated data.
Results: Overall, 47% of older adults (age 60 years or older) used the Internet versus 87% of younger adults (less than 60 years). More education and having symptoms that interfered with regular activities increased the odds of using the Internet, while being age 60 years or older decreased the odds. Data from 187 older adults and 1021 younger adults were included in the analysis excluding missing values.
Conclusions: Older adults with bipolar disorder use the Internet much less frequently than younger adults. Many older adults do not use the Internet, and technology tools are suitable for some but not all older adults. As more health services are only available online, and more digital tools are developed, there is concern about growing health disparities based on age. Mental health experts should participate in determining the appropriate role for digital tools for older adults with bipolar disorder.
Bauer, R., Glenn, T., Strejilevich, S., et al. (2018). Internet use by older adults with bipolar disorder: international survey results. International Journal of Bipolar Disorders, 6, 20. doi: 10.1186/s40345-018-0127-7
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