WebMD's Depression Test Has Only One (Sponsored) Answer: You're "At Risk"

Last Updated Feb 22, 2010 4:23 PM EST

Feeling depressed? Cheer yourself up by taking WebMD's comical new depression test. It's sponsored by Eli Lilly (LLY) -- maker of the antidepressant Cymbalta -- so they must know what they're talking about, right? In fact, no matter which of the 10 answers you choose on the test, the result comes out the same:
You may be at risk for major depression.
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.

To be fair to WebMD and Lilly, the test is clearly marked as "funded by Lilly." And there's a Cymbalta ad sitting on the same page. But that doesn't excuse the fact that it is rigged. Even if you answer "no" to all of the 10 questions (which are all framed so that the "yes" answer indicates depressed behavior) you still get this response:
Lower Risk:

You may be at risk for major depression.

* If you have recurring thoughts of death or suicide, call your doctor or any qualified health care provider right away. If you need immediate assistance or think you may have a medical emergency, call 911.
You get this message even if you answer "no" to the question about whether you think about death a lot. Here's a screen grab of the result for someone who clicks on none of the answers indicating depression:

If you click on more than five "yes" answers you get a similar message, except that you're diagnosed as "Higher Risk."

And it's not difficult for a non-depressed person to click at least four answers that trigger the high-risk diagnosis. Here are four questions that any ordinary person might answer yes to (with my rationalization in parentheses):
I have trouble concentrating. (In this mobile-web-digital culture, does anyone not have trouble concentrating?) My appetite has changed. I'm not eating enough, or I'm eating too much. (We're in the midst of an obesity crisis and my culture's role models are all impossibly thin. Of course my appetite has changed.) I feel tired almost every day. (Right before bedtime, usually.) I feel worthless or hopeless. (I live in a country with historic levels of cultural narcissism and unemployment. Forgive me if I occasionally despair!)
Grassley has asked WebMD to respond by March 4. Perhaps it can explain why even a super happy person taking the test receives the "you may be at risk" answer.

Comments

Market Data

Market News

Stock Watchlist