Dec 3, 2008

Lifestyle - Now a webtest to help beat the blues

LONDON: Feeling down? Take an online test to find out whether your feelings will descend into full-blown depression in a year's time.

Scientists at the University College London have developed a software which they claim could reveal one's risk of getting major depression, thereby helping doctors pinpoint patients in need of help.

In fact, they used 39 factors such as age, sex and socioeconomic status to create an algorithm that can predict the risk of being diagnosed with a new episode of depression within the next year, the 'New Scientist' reported.

The team developed a preliminary algorithm by studying 5000 healthy volunteers, aged between 18 and 75 years, in six countries in Europe over one year.

All the subjects were diagnosed as non-depressed at the beginning of the trial, and were re-evaluated for major depression after six and 12 months. Taking into account their responses to questions on key risk factors, the algorithm was refined and re-evaluated when further tested on 1732 people.

"Major depression is now a leading cause of illness and disability worldwide, and reducing its prevalence is one of the greatest public-health challenges of the 21st century. People identified by the finished tool, called 'predictD', can be flagged on a doctor's computer.

"Recognition of those at risk could help with watchful waiting or active support, such as restarting treatment in patients with a history of depression," said lead scientist Michael King.

The study has been published in the 'Archives of General Psychiatry' journal

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