METHODS: 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.
RESULTS: 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.
CONCLUSION: 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.
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.