Researchers at University College London (UCL) have developed an online tool that may help predict the risk of someone suffering from depression in the future.
The online test, called PredictD, could eventually be used by doctors and clinics to identify those at risk for depression.
A website is available for the risk algorithm at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/predict-depression/. The site offers the depression test and states that it is only designed for people who are not currently depressed. The test starts out with questions and then proceeds to the risk assessment, which estimates the risk of developing depression within the year.
The risk algorithm was tested in 6,000 people in six countries across Europe. The study followed up with the participants at six and twelve months and studies showed that the risk algorithm was accurate in predicting future episodes of depression. They used a similar approach that is used to test on risk for heart disease.
Further testing of the tool is planned in Europe, and researchers are hoping to also test this tool in China, to predict the risk of depression in the Chinese community.
“Depression is a common problem throughout the world, but although we know how to treat it, we know very little about how to prevent its onset. We have ways of predicting the onset of heart disease or stroke, but none for predicting people’s risk of major depression. Our study is one of the first to develop a risk algorithm for just this purpose,” says Professor Michael King, UCL Department of Mental Health Sciences.
Researchers want to focus more on preventing depression, and by identifying a person at a possible risk for depression, doctors could keep a watchful eye on their patients, give support and offer behavioral therapy.
“Major depression is now a leading cause of illness and disability world-wide and reducing its prevalence is one of the greatest public health challenges of the twenty-first century. Depression will rank second to cardiovascular disease as a global cause of disability by 2020. Up to a quarter of people who visit their doctor experience major depression, with relapses frequently occurring for up to 10 years,” states King.
This study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.