WebMD Caves on Rigged Depression Test: Not Everyone Is Suicidal, Apparently

Last Updated Feb 26, 2010 12:07 PM EST

WebMD has changed its Eli Lilly (LLY)-sponsored depression test so that not every answer results in a diagnosis of potential major depression. BNET noted on Feb. 22 that if you checked the "no" box to all 10 symptoms in the online quiz, the results page said, "You may be at risk for major depression," and urged users to call a doctor "right away" if they were feeling suicidal.

Now, the result for someone indicating no symptoms of depression says:
Lower Risk

You replied that you are feeling four or fewer of the common symptoms of depression. In general, people experiencing depression have five or more common symptoms of the condition. But every individual is unique. If you are concerned about depression, talk with your doctor.
(You can see a screen grab of the original results page here, and if you're a real HTML geek you'll notice that the old results remain hidden in the page's source coding.)

While "lower risk" is certainly an improvement for someone indicating no symptoms of depression, WebMD is still gilding the Lilly. Depression isn't something that happy people are likely to catch suddenly, like the flu. It takes a set of serious circumstances, extended over a period of time, to become truly clinically depressed. If you're happy today, your "risk" of being depressed tomorrow is only "lower" in the sense that it's so low it's practically zero.

Sen. Charles Grassley wants the link between WebMD and Lilly investigated because he suspects people may rely on the test, thinking it is objective information when in fact it's sponsored fluff. Lilly funded the test, which was accompanied by ads for its antidepressant pill, Cymbalta.

Hat tip to World of Psychology

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