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Google Medicine Communications The Internet Science Technology

Google Invites Users To 'Check If You're Clinically Depressed' (theverge.com) 124

Google will now invite U.S. users to "check if you're clinically depressed" by using a clinically-validated screening questionnaire. "The move announced on Wednesday comes out of work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and represents the first time that the search giant has promoted a mental health self-assessment tool in search results," reports Financial Times. From the report: The intervention by the world's most popular search engine comes as people increasingly seek medical advice online: Google says one in 20 searches are health-related, although it will not disclose what proportion are about depression. It is also the latest public move by a technology business to take greater responsibility for content that users see on its platform, after criticism that companies such as Facebook and Google failed to help people distinguish verified from false information. A box of verified information about symptoms and treatments for clinical depression already tops U.S. Google search results for "depression" or queries such as "do I have depression." Google does this for other common conditions, including flu and tonsillitis, and symptoms such as headaches, using information provided by the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical organization. But for depression it has added a link inviting users to "check if you're clinically depressed." This takes searchers to a questionnaire widely used by doctors to measure levels of depressive symptoms. People who complete the test get a score indicating the severity of their symptoms, which can aid a physician's diagnosis.
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Google Invites Users To 'Check If You're Clinically Depressed'

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  • Great Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yorgasor ( 109984 ) <ron@@@tritechs...net> on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @06:52PM (#55072429) Homepage

    I'm sure they'll keep this information private and will in no way use this information to feed specific advertising your way or resell to third parties.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      My biggest worry is if this gets to insurance or potential employers. I got bum-rush-fired by one job because they found out I had depression.

      I also was photographed by a friend in a humidor, and the pic ended up on Facebook. Week later, I had my health insurance company call and demand a full physical with bloodwork, else they would charge smoker's rates.

      • Dang... You have all the luck...

        Wondering out loud.... Are you SURE these two instances where not just coincidences?

        • Wondering out loud... are you SURE you want to believe an anecdote posted by an Anonymous Coward actually happened?

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Look if you're going to argue rationally and bring up excellent points there's just no talking to you.

          • Of course it did. You can't lie on the Internet!

          • Are you SURE these two instances where not just coincidences?

            Wondering out loud... are you SURE you want to believe an anecdote posted by an Anonymous Coward actually happened?

            I guess the hint of sarcasm in my voice wasn't obvious....I was actually thinking that if the poster thought this was true, they really had paranoid delusions and thus mental issues.... In which case, I'm chalking the whole thing up to being coincidences...

      • Re:Great Idea (Score:5, Informative)

        by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson.gmail@com> on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @09:15PM (#55072997) Journal

        It's a self-administered test - you do NOT need to go through google. The link to the US National Library of Medicine paper with the test and how to score it is here [nih.gov]. The relevant section:

        Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems?
        0=Not at all,1=Several days,2=More than half the days,3=Nearly every day

        1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things 0 1 2 3
        2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless 0 1 2 3
        3. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much 0 1 2 3
        4. Feeling tired or having little energy 0 1 2 3
        5. Poor appetite or overeating 0 1 2 3
        6. Feeling bad about yourself—or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down 0 1 2 3
        7. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television 0 1 2 3
        8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the opposite—being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual 0 1 2 3
        9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way 0 1 2 3
        The total is your score.

        Interpreting the score:

        The vast majority of patients (93%) with no depressive disorder had a PHQ-9 score less than 10, while most patients (88%) with major depression had scores of 10 or greater. Scores less than 5 almost always signified the absence of a depressive disorder; scores of 5 to 9 predominantly represented patients with either no depression or subthreshold (i.e., other) depression; scores of 10 to 14 represented a spectrum of patients; and scores of 15 or greater usually indicated major depression.

        In other words, this is something that any web monkey could bang out in a really short time, so don't be too impressed with the Googles. With the ready availability of web-based tests based on the PHQ-9, there is absolutely NO need for yet another one, so it looks like this is just to start getting people used to the idea of handing over their medical info directly to Google.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It's a self-administered test - you do NOT need to go through google.

          If you click on a link on one of Google's pages to get there, they know you're interested enough to click. That's all they really needed to know: the people interested enough to click on a link labeled "check if you're clinically depressed" are probably feeling depressed. You already have gone through Google.

          Google didn't have to administer the test themselves to find out more about you: just what you're interested in. They can then add that to your advertising profile, sell it to insurance companies, ha

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          They need to keep it simple, otherwise how else can they reliably tell if we can be screwed over yet more, without freaking out and stringing them all up. A how far can they go meter, taking everything and leaving us nothing before we rise up and take them down.

        • Ok, now I have to read the full paper to see how to interpret high score while not feeling so bad :\
      • Friends don't let friends post pictures of them on Facebook.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Voluntary psychometric testing: an advertiser's wet dream.

      The Onion was right [theonion.com]: the cartel of advertising companies that run the internet are far more effective than any 1984-esque government surveillance could have been.

      Imagine if government agents knocked on your door and asked you to take a voluntary psychological assessment. Wouldn't you be a bit weirded out? Now an advertising company that also runs (and reads) your e-mail and decides what you see when you search the internet - that company is asking

    • There's no way they'll resell it to third parties. Between data like this, and a bunch of people voluntarily giving them their DNA, they're going to be the most efficent insurer ever. Efficient meaning never paying out more than they take in from any given client.

  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @06:54PM (#55072437)

    To instead ask,

    Are you NOT clinically depressed, and assume everyone else is?

    • Are you nervy, irritable, depressed? Tired of life?

      Keep it up!

      https://www.bing.com/videos/se... [bing.com]

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @07:01PM (#55072463)

    34: Are you excited about Firefox 57?

    45: Did you vote for Bernie Sanders?

    57: Were you unable to view the total eclipse live?

    • Surely #57 should be the one about Firefox 57, unless there are plans to make Firefox 57 porn-themed that I'm unaware of?

    • Re: #57 - I viewed it last week when I downloaded the latest Eclipse updates. Oh, you mean the solar eclipse? Nah, if you've seen one eclipse, you've seen them all. Literally nothing new to see there.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      23: How many times a day do you check Slashdot?

    • by chihowa ( 366380 )

      Regarding #57, I almost missed it while stuck inside working and thought of this story: All Summer in a Day [btboces.org].

  • By clicking this article, you admitted that you care about clinical depression which means that you are clinically depressed. Off with you to google's blues offender list!

    • Wait... Wait....

      I care about depression because I have family members who suffer from it and I clicked on this story because I find what Google does interesting in a "Let's watch NASCAR for the crashes" sort of way.

      I guess that makes me certifiable...

  • Google staffers had at least 427 meetings at the White House over the course of the Obama presidency.
    • What's really depressing is that information didn't make into the mainstream media. Our press may be free, but it's extremely biased - a fifth column so to speak.
      • Just because the media don't have to tell the same lies as the politicians doesn't mean they are in any way required to tell the truth.

    • Sounds like a weekly meeting of some sort.

  • ... You guys have Trump for president.

    The fact that you are depressed about it is perfectly natural, and not an indicattion of mental illness.

    It's if you aren't depressed about how your country is being run by somebody who feels that he's always right by virtue of simply being rich that you'd really have something to worry about.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's like the old quote from the 1960s. If you're not angry, then you aren't paying attention.

  • When is Google going to figure out who's depressed by looking at their search history....

    "Hey there Google user, we noticed that you might be depressed so here is a list of shrinks in your area that we urge you to call as soon as possible!"

    THAT would be a story...

    • Hi, I'm Clippy! I notice that you're taking a test for depression. Can I help? Here are some useful links to purchase Zoloft...

  • All the TFS says is that

    People who complete the test get a score indicating the severity of their symptoms, which can aid a physician's diagnosis.

    Which basically means no support for people who are actually depressed.

    I'd like top stay that the results are presented in a useful way but as I am at a desktop and this appears to only be presented to people on mobile devices I'm depressed that I can't look into this more.

  • by rholtzjr ( 928771 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @07:33PM (#55072597) Journal

    BEHOLD the powers of the Mighty GooglePsych AI (coming soon to a web browser to you). It diagnoses, it mediates, it gives you good advice. All behold the power of the AI.

    *Warning GooglePhych AI is not an actual doctor and may cause nasuea, distopia, or general feeling of disgust *

    *If this problem persists, please stop using GooglePsych AI immediately and go outside take a walk, or other outdoor activity as you have been sitting at the freaking computer too long reading internet trash, you bottom-dwelling troglodyte*

    What will this mighty "Do No Evil" company not try and do. Does anyone else see potential issues with a company known for trying to influence the masses into their way of thinking, that now they go for a brainwashing..... errr... Psychiatric AI?

    [and yes, there is quite a bit of /sarcasm in this one for those who do not recognize it]

  • "Donuts are only for people who are clinically depressed. That means you've been to the clinic, and they said you are depressed."

    (memory/paraphrase)

  • Open a private tab and go here:

    https://patient.info/doctor/pa... [patient.info]

    Now you can take the test, through https and get immediate results without Google's involvement at all, and no tracking, no cookies.

    How did I find it? With Google, of course :) But indirectly using http://startpage.com/ [startpage.com] in a private tab.

    • Thanks to Mark's link I'm a 4, which means I'm normal on the edge of depressive. Considering my life I'll take that as a win.
      • Dang, I am there as well. I like how the test puts you right on the edge to "Light Depression". Kind of makes you go, "Hmmmm, I wonder what I can do differently to put myself over that last 1 point"? But considering the goings on in this day and age, isn't pretty much everyone on edge lately?
  • Does porn count as "health-related"?

    • by dddux ( 3656447 )
      Of course, because it's healthy and it makes you feel good. It's a natural anti-depressant.
  • izzit just me? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @08:03PM (#55072759)
    or do non of the linked articles actually lead to the test.

    / possibly depressed minds want to know
    • One of the interesting things about all (or almost all) ``Clinical Scales'' is that they are all equally weighted when the scale/test is being scored. The difficulty and discrimination differences of each item are completely scrapped in favour of the a constant scaling of sum_{i=1}^{p}1*response_{i}. This is unfortunate, and seeing the ``clinically validated'' bit got me thinking about a fun study I could do. A very quick review however found this: An item response theory evaluation of three depression asse

  • "I'm feeling depressed..."
  • by AtlantaSteve ( 965777 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @09:16PM (#55073003)
    "I'm Feeling Unlucky"
  • Here are the questions that the questionnaire asks:

    Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems?
    1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things
    2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
    3. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
    4. Feeling tired or having little energy
    5. Poor appetite or overeating
    6. Feeling bad about yourself—or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down
    7. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television
    8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the opposite—being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual
    9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way

    You may have noticed something - where are the questions asking if you had, in the last few weeks, been interested in something, excited, enjoyed a meal, felt energetic etc: all the things that strongly indicate that you are not clinically depressed? Reading through that, it seems as if it is designed to make you think more about the bad things in your life, to make you think you are depressed.

    Which isn't surprising - because, like most things in medicin

    • What for? At best the so called balanced questions would help to detect bipolar or depressions with mixed features, which is not the point. Other than that they would be a waste of time.

    • The reasoning behind using negative questions is to force your mind to consider the negative states honestly. Unless you are in a severely depressed state, the ability of the mind to promote positive aspects over negative aspects will skew the evaluation. Those positive questions you pose are being asked, just in a way that your mind is forced to be honest in evaluating it. That's what the 0 answer is for.

    • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

      I don't think health care providers really think about the questions they ask and the impact they have on the patient. For example, if you see a neurologist, they're going to ask about things like "have you had thoughts about suicide"? Getting asked that each and every time you see a neurologist, it starts to feel like a suggestion or you get the sense that you're beyond what they can treat to the point where many similar patients have attempted suicide that they're just waiting for a yes answer because i

    • If you read the peer-reviewed article on the test from 2001, you'll find it actually correlates fairly well with clinically diagnosed depression in their tests.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... [nih.gov]

      "In 580 patients who underwent a structured psychiatric interview by a mental health professional to determine the presence or absence of major depression using DSM-IV diagnostic criteria."

  • Like they don't know everything about you anyway! Considering people HAND OVER their privacy every time they install software, apps, and what not, figured google would send YOU an email saying "from the activity and posts we have found on the web, we have declared you clinically depressed. We also note that you have many sharp objects, firearms and small children. The appropriate agencies will be in contact with you to provide: corks for all sharp objects, removal of all firearms & children from your
  • Sure I'll take the test, what could possibly go wrong?
  • Just google "am I clinically depressed" to find out you're dying.

    Do you ever feel tired? Does your nose ever itch? You have ___________. You're gonna fucking die.

  • Why do they call people who are different, ill?
  • Before J Stalin became leader of the Soviet Union, he was a regional Party leader. During that time he had a nickname:. "Comrade File Cabinet". Named so for his habit of collecting files on everyone.

    Something to ponder....

  • Since only people who feel depressed will be motivated to take the test, they will discovered that about 100% of google users are affected by depression.
  • Seriously, imagine that for a moment. Everybody saying "Yeah, whatever my disposition. Load it into the cloud and let an AI figure out my best diet, my acurate life expectancy and the best treatments for the diseases and health issues I should expect."

    I'm not sure that would be a Really Bad Thing(TM). The most promising cancer treatment these days is chemo therapy combined with methadone to deal with the accompaning naussea. Imagine millions of cancer datasets from all cancer patients and their treatments a

  • There's an important difference between screening for a condition and testing for it.

    Screening tools like the PHQ-9 are a great way to narrow down the list of people who may be depressed or are at risk for depression, but they don't say definitively whether or not someone is actually clinically depressed. That takes a far more detailed process, usually conducted by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The point is to screen out those who are not at all likely to have the given condition and focus on those w
    • Yes, thank you for that distinction. I get the feeling that a lot of comments on this story missed that.

  • 1) Are you still a Nothinghead?
    2) Have you considered the advantages provided at your nearest Ethical Suicide Parlor?

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