An overwhelming majority of people with depression or bipolar disorder wants better treatment options and care, according to a first-of-its-kind survey by The Milken Institute.
The Milken Institute, one of two collaborators with 23andMe’s Depression and Bipolar Study, began the survey last year of more than 6,405 individuals who reported experiencing one or both of the conditions — about a third of those surveyed also are participants in 23andMe’s Depression and Bipolar Study. Among other things, the survey found that 89 percent of those with one or both of the conditions said there was a need for better treatments and care.
“Why aren’t there more options in treating depression?” one of the survey respondents asked. “Trial and error of creating the right cocktail of drugs should not be commonplace.”
Depression and Bipolar Study
The findings also support the basis of 23andMe’s Depression and Bipolar Study, which enrolled 25,000 participants diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder and another 25,000 research participants who do not have the condition to study. Researchers are exploring the underlying genetics and other factors that contribute to developing depression and or bipolar disorder. But the ultimate goal of the research is to improve the lives of people living with these conditions through better treatment options, a goal that aligns with those with the conditions who responded to the survey.
Along with the Milken Institute, 23andMe is collaborating with Lundbeck, a global pharmaceutical company tirelessly dedicated to restoring brain health, so every person can be their best. The researchers are still combing through the data for that study. At the same time, 23andMe continues to collaborate with other research institutions and universities looking at these conditions.
Most recently, 23andMe contributed data used in a genetic study by the University of Edinburgh published in the journal Nature Neuroscience earlier this year. That study found more than 200 genes associated with depression. Many of the strongest associations were in genes involved in neurotransmission and response to stimuli that are part of the central nervous system. The findings highlight the importance of studying cortical regions of the brain and their role in the condition, according to the researchers.
The Milken Survey
The intent of Milken Institute’s survey, conducted along with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, was to learn more about the experience of those with depression or bipolar disorder or both. The group hopes to use those insights to prioritize the direction of research.
But the survey also offered some insight into the two conditions, indicating that more often than not, depression and bipolar go hand-in-hand. About 33 percent of those surveyed said they were diagnosed with both depression and bipolar disorder. Another 21 percent said they were diagnosed with one condition, but experienced symptoms of the other. For researchers, it suggests that the conditions fall across a spectrum and are not distinct, although they are often diagnosed that way.
Finally, the survey asked about the age when symptoms first appeared, and this revealed a potential gap in research. Almost 70 percent of those surveyed said their symptoms began in childhood, and more than a quarter said the symptoms started before the age of 12. The significance here is that many organizations that track the condition report onset in early adulthood, perhaps missing a key period of onset.
This new survey offers essential insights into the conditions, but it also is notable for focusing on the input of people with depression or bipolar disorder, or both.