Depression is one of the most common under-diagnosed disorders for a variety or reasons, and Taiwanese researchers hope an online self-assessment program will help accurately diagnose this problem.

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Chao-Cheng Lin of the National Taiwan University Hospital, Yu-Chuan Li of the National Yang-Ming University, and other colleagues in Taiwan developed the Internet-based Self-assessment Program for Depression (ISP-D). Between September 2001 and January 2002 the team recruited 579 subjects via a popular mental health website. Volunteers were sent a follow-up email one to two weeks after completing the first questionnaire inviting them to re-sit the test, and those who completed the questionnaires were offered a psychiatrist’s appointment to validate the diagnosis.

Results of the first assessment showed that 31% of participants had major depressive disorder, 7% a minor depressive disorder, 15% had some symptoms of depression that did not amount to a full diagnosis of depression (subsyndromal depressive symptoms) and 46% had no depression. Analysis of the retest results show excellent reproducibility for major depressive disorder. The reproducibility was lower for minor depressive disorder, which may be because minor depression is not a stable diagnosis. The psychiatrist’s follow-up revealed that the diagnosis was correct for 75% of those tested online.

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