Jörn Conell, Technische Universität Dresden
Rita Bauer, Technische Universität Dresden
Tasha Glenn, ChronoRecord Association
Martin Alda, Dalhousie University
Raffaella Ardau, University Hospital of Cagliari
Bernhard T. Baune, University of Adelaide
Michael Berk, Deakin University
Yuly Bersudsky, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Amy Bilderbeck, University of Oxford
Alberto Bocchetta, University of Cagliari
Letizia Bossini, University of Siena
Angela Marianne Paredes Castron, Deakin University
Eric Yat Wo Cheung, Castle Peak Hospital, Hong Kong
Caterina Chillotti, University Hospital of Cagliari
Sabine Choppin, Hôpitaux Universitaires Henri-Mondor
Maria Del Zompo, University of Cagliari
Rodrigo Dias, University of São Paulo
Seetal Dodd, Deakin University
Anne Duffy, University of Calgary
Bruno Etain, Hôpitaux Universitaires Henri-Mondor
Andrea Fagiolini, University of Siena
Julie Garnham, Dalhousie University
John Geddes, University of Oxford
Jonas Gidebro, Aarhus University Hospital
Ana Gonzalez-Pinto, University of the Basque Country
Guy M. Goodwin, University of Oxford
Paul Grof, Mood Disorders Center of Ottawa
Hirohiko Harima, Tokyo Metropolitan Matsuzawa Hospital
Stefanie Hassel, Aston University
Chantal Henry, Hôpitaux Universitaires Henri-Mondor
Diego Hidalgo-Mazzei, University of Barcelona
Vaisnvy Kapur, NIMHANS
Girish Kunigiri, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust
Beny Lafer, University of São Paulo
Chun Lam, Kowloon Hospital, Hong Kong
Erik Roj Larsen, Aarhus University Hospital
Ute Lewitzka, Technische Universität Dresden
Ramus Licht, Aalborg University Hospital
Anne Hvenegaard Lund, Aarhus University Hospital
Blazej Misiak, Wroclaw Medical University
Patryk Piotrowski, Wroclaw Medical University
Scott Monteith, Michigan State University
Rodrigo Munoz, University of California, San Diego
Takako Nakanotani, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science
René E. Nielsen, Aalborg University Hospital
Claire O'Donovan, Dalhousie University
Yasushi Okamura, Tokyo Metropolitan Matsuzawa Hospital
Yamima Osher, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Andreas Reif, University Hospital Frankfurt, Goethe-University
Philipp Ritter, Technische Universität Dresden
Janusz K. Rybakowski, Poznan University of Medical Sciences
Kemal Sagduyu, University of Missouri Kansas City
Brett Sawchuk, University of Calgary
Elon Shwartz, Croton on Hudson
Ângela Miranda Scippa, Federal University of Bahia
Claire Slaney, Dalhousie University
Ahmad Hatim Sulaiman, University of Malaya
Kirsi Suominen, City of Helsinki, Department of Social Services and Health Care
Aleksandra Suwalska, Poznan University of Medical Sciences
Peter Tam, University of Hong Kong
Yoshitaka Tatebayashi, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science
Leonardo Tondo, Harvard Medical School
Eduard Vieta, University of Barcelona
Maj Vinberg, Psychiatric Center Copenhagen
Biju Viswanath, NIMHANS
Julia Volkert, University Hospital Frankfurt, Goethe-University
Mark Zetin, Chapman UniversityFollow
Iñaki Zorrilla, University of the Basque Country
Peter C. Whybrow, University of California, Los Angeles
Michael Bauer, Technische Universität Dresden

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Information 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.


A 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.


976 (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.


Online 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.


This article was originally published in International Journal of Bipolar Disorders, volume 4, issue 1, in 2016. DOI: 10.1186/s40345-016-0058-0

40345_2016_58_MOESM1_ESM.doc (43 kB)
Additional file 1. Questionnaire: Information seeking in bipolar disorder

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