Recovery beyond clinical improvement - Recovery outcomes measured for people with bipolar disorder between 1980 and 2020

Barbara Mezes, Fiona Lobban, Deborah Costain, Laura Hillier, Damien Longson, Filippo Varese, Steven H Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Outcome measurement in bipolar disorder (BD) traditionally focused on clinical improvement without considering other domains. Improvement trajectories in clinical and social-functional domains are different and can simultaneously appear in one whilst not in other domains. Measuring personal recovery (PR) has become a priority internationally. This review explored the shift in research investigating operational recovery definitions and underpinning factors of recovery in BD over the past four decades.

Methods: Studies defining recovery domains (other than clinical recovery) in BD were systematically reviewed; operational recovery definitions and factors assessed in association with recovery were thematically categorised and integrated in a narrative synthesis.

Results: Thirty-three studies, comprising 3638 participants from 19 countries were included. Identified operational recovery definition themes included i) PR ii) social-functional (SFR), and iii) occupational-residential (ORR) recovery. Examined factors were grouped as demographic, clinical and psychosocial factors. Predominantly demographic factors were linked to ORR and clinical factors to SFR. Depressive symptomatology was the only clinical factor associated with PR. Research investigating psychosocial factors in PR is emerging and has showed that resilience and appraisals of mood seem to be associated with PR.

Limitations: Studies not available in English or examining functioning without defining recovery were excluded.

Conclusions: Earlier operational recovery definitions of ORR and SFR were often arbitrary and inconsistent, and predominantly focused on clinical and demographic underpinning factors. Whilst research attempts to follow the significant policy shifts towards personalised care by measuring what matters to individuals and exploring broader underpinning psychosocial factors, it is still lagging behind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-392
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is part of a PhD project funded by the Faculty of Health and Medicine at Lancaster University and supplemented by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. The funders had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Social recovery
  • Functional recovery
  • Occupational recovery
  • Personal recovery


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