What does “quality of life” mean in bipolar research?

on May 24, 2017
What does “quality of life” mean in bipolar research?

Click here to look at Emma’s slides from the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) conference (May 4-7, 2017).

My ISBD presentation was intended as a call to action for the bipolar research community. We know that quality of life is an outcome that is important to consumers, but issues with the definition and measurement of the construct might be limiting our ability to make progress in improving people’s lives. My review was a summary of the various ways people use the term “quality of life” in the literature – I found that there was no consensus definition, and it was alternately used as a proxy for functioning, health, subjective experience, satisfaction, and wellbeing. While the measurement instruments used in the literature are generally taken at face value as measures of these constructs, across the literature there is a lot of diversity in what authors intend quality of life to mean. My suggestions for researchers therefore were:

  • To be clear in their definition, usage, and measurement of quality of life, and justify their choices
  • To consider how well their choice of reference for quality of life reflects what people with bipolar think is important
  • To engage in theoretical clarification of the constructs of functioning, health, satisfaction and wellbeing in relation to quality of life in bipolar disorder
  • To use multiple quality of life measures if possible, in order to ensure that a broader spectrum of constructs are captured

I am hopeful that this review will assist in the clarification of the current knowledge base and assist the literature in future investigation of this consumer-valued outcome.

A key message that I took away from ISBD wasn’t necessarily drawn from the research at the conference itself – it was sparked by reconnecting with my CREST.BD peers, who I hadn’t seen in person for two years. I had some great chats with people, was inspired by the work of others, and got some solid advice on tricky end-of-degree career decisions. I realised how I miss the camaraderie and passionate sharing of ideas that I experience when spending time with the CREST.BD team. That’s not to say that there isn’t a bipolar research community in Australia; but, because I don’t have a ready-made peer group like CREST.BD to fall in with, I can sometimes feel a little isolated. I realised that I have to get more proactive about building those kind of ties on my own home turf (a challenging prospect for an introvert). I’m making it a goal for this year to reach out and get to know what’s going on in the research world in my own backyard.

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