British psychiatrists at the Cambridge University have developed a very simple 20-minute online self-report computer test that can measure the severity of children and teenager depression or anxiety disorder. Those affected run from age 5 to 19.
Current U.S. studies, including the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, have found that up to 2.5 percent of children and 8.3 percent of adolescents suffer from depression. The online test results may still require additional medical help from medical professionals.
The Cambridge University study is a preliminary one, finding that "children who performed poorly on the test were between two and eight times more likely to be depressed a year later that those who scored well." It exposes difficulties that the children and teenagers have in processing emotional information, associated with a susceptibility to mental illness. According to the Guardian.
"The more errors made, the greater the risk," said Ian Goodyer, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, who led the research. "We do not know how good a predictor this test is, but this study provides sufficient validity to test it in the field." According to Goodyear, there is an upcoming follow-up on the study to see how well the study is working.
The online depression testing site reports that numerous studies on depression statistics show that up to 2.5 percent of children and up to 8.3 percent of adolescents in the U.S. suffer from depression.
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The test results also look at anxiety disorder, a disorder that divides up into various types: panic attacks; anxiety; social anxiety disorder; panic disorder & goraphobia; post-traumatic stress disorder; separation anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and generalized anxiety. The disorder is characterized by excessive fear, anxiety, and distress.
Parent interviews by researchers looked at the children's early home lives before the age of six. They focused on which youth had witnessed intermittent arguments for more than six months, and verbal, emotional or physical violence between their parent.
The Guardian reported, "In one test, the children were asked to make quick decisions on whether the emotional content of words, such as 'joyful' and 'failure' was positive, negative or neutral."
An important mile-marker for mental disorders concerning children and teenagers, poor performance on the test may serve as a "biomarker" for those at risk for depression or various forms of anxiety disorders. According to the researchers at Cambridge University,
"If the test proves effective at spotting vulnerable children, they could be helped with therapies that break their tendency to focus on the negative aspects of the world around them, or through family sessions that aim to resolve the damaging conflicts that arise in the home."