4 December 2008
An online test, called predictD, has been developed by British researchers to tell whether or not a person is suffering from depression.
PredictD is a tool that could eventually be used by family doctors and local clinics to identify those at risk of depression, for whom prevention might be most useful, the scientist said. The test is available online at www.ucl.ac.uk/predict-depression.
The study is the first to develop a risk algorithm to predict people’s risk of major depression – a common problem throughout the world – said team leader professor Michael King of University College London’s Department of Mental Health Sciences.
The risk algorithm was tested in 6,000 people visiting their family doctor in six countries in Europe.
Further tests were conducted in nearly 3,000 people in Chile. The participants in the study were followed up at six and 12 months.
The algorithm was as accurate at predicting future episodes of depression as similar instruments developed to predict future risk of heart problems, the boffins wrote in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
“Risk tools such as ours are needed to focus more effort on preventing depression. For example, people identified as at risk by an online tool could be flagged on a family doctor’s computer,” King said.
“Recognition of those at risk could help with watchful waiting or active support, such as restarting treatment in patients with a history of depression. Patients could also be advised on the nature of depression or on cognitive behaviour therapies to help reduce their risk of developing major depression,” he said.
The doctors are not planning further testing of predictD as an early detector of depression and to prevent the same.
“The next stage of our research will be to establish how doctors could use our tool to help prevent the onset of depression,” King said.