US Children Diagnosed With Bipolar 72 Times More Often than Kids in UK


Children and youth in the United States are leaving hospitals with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder 72.1 times more often than children and youth in the UK, according to a study led by University of Oxford researchers published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. US children receive a diagnosis of bipolar at a rate of 100.9 per 100,000 population compared to 1.4 per 100,000 in the UK.

“Controversy exists over the diagnosis and prevalence of pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD),” wrote the researchers. “Although several small surveys suggest that the rate of the PBD diagnosis in clinical settings is higher in the United States than in other countries, no comprehensive cross-national comparisons of clinical practice have been performed.” The researchers analyzed data about US and UK hospital discharges through the years 2000 to 2010, for patients aged 1 to 19 years.

“There was a 72.1-fold difference in discharge rates for PBD in youth between the United States and England,” wrote the researchers. “After controlling for cross-national differences in length of stay, discharge rates for PBD remained 12.5 times higher in the United States than in England.”

The researchers noted that bipolar diagnoses increased with age in both countries; however, there wasn’t a single case of a UK child under 7 years of age being discharged with a PBD diagnosis, whereas by 6 years of age US children were being diagnosed with PDB at the same rate as British 19 year olds.

“This suggests that the difference in discharge rates for PBD may be due to differing diagnostic practices for PBD in the United States versus in England,” concluded the researchers.

In a press release, lead author Dr. Anthony James of the University of Oxford said that “the study design does not allow us to answer the question whether US clinicians are too liberal in assigning the diagnosis of bipolar disorder to youth or, alternatively, whether English clinicians fail to recognize or diagnose these illnesses.” However, in the study the researchers noted that the US PBD rates were also many times higher than the rates in most other nations that have been studied.

US children and adolescents were also generally 3.9 times more likely to be diagnosed with any form of mental illness than their counterparts in the UK, at 261.2 per 100,000 population in the US compared to 67.8 per 100,000 in the UK. “For ADHD, the rate is 13.2 times higher in the United States than in England,” wrote the researchers, while “unipolar depression in children and adolescents is 4.2-fold higher.”

Though the study was published in June, it seems to have largely gone unreported in the news media.

A Comparison of American and English Hospital Discharge Rates for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder, 2000 to 2010 (James, Anthony et al. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. June 2014. Vol. 53, Issue 6, Pages 614-624. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.02.008)

Bipolar disease in children, adolescents: Discharge rates much higher in the US compared to UK (Press Release from Elsevier on Science Daily, May 22, 2014)


  1. There is no way that children in the USA have true bipolar disorder 100x over UK. These cases have to be misdiagnosis in the USA, probably used to justify a deadly prescription for bipolar medication to control the person and sell them drugs.

    In USA drugs for all conditions is overused, as if it couldn’t possibly have a harmful effect or be a waste of money. Other treatments are also denied, and its easier to see everything as a psychiatric condition which has no treatment besides drugs in the American system rather to not treat non issues or to even track down the real problem. I see parents drugging the heck out of their kids and doctors not even concerned about the side effects all over, as if you cannot overuse these drugs or oversell these treatments at all. WTF!

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  2. Todd (and Allen Frances) are right, bipolar diagnoses have “gone wild” in the USA. I’m quite certain it’s partially to do with Dr. Joseph Biederman’s encouragement for US doctors to ignore the DSM’s disclaimer that a bipolar diagnosis is incorrect, if the symptoms were due to another drug (especially the antidepressants and ADHD drugs). But the US doctors are seemingly diagnosing all adverse drug effects (legal or illegal) as “bipolar.” They really are an industry out of control.

    And it’s truly heartbreaking to see so many children and young adults drugged out of their minds. It breaks my heart every time I go to the grocery store, because so many of the young adults there are so obviously (to one aware of the ADRs of the psychotropic drugs) whacked out of their minds on psychotropic drugs. And I see young boys in the schools with large breasts, and know what causes that. Truly, the US medical community is “out of control.” And they’re harming our children for profit.

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    • I was thinking the same thing, although that clearly doesn’t explain all of it. There are so many kids who take stimulants and become aggressive, and then get “bipolar” diagnoses! I see it all the time in my work. No one ever seems to stop and ask if stimulants could be the cause, even though increased aggression and mania are noted side effects of stimulants. Even more bizarre, we know that stimulants increase dopamine levels, and antipsychotics, which are the most common drug given for “bipolar” in children, decrease dopamine levels. So we’re increasing them with one drug and decreasing them with another.

      How does the public let these people get away with it????

      —- Steve

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