Eight minutes. Or even less if you have a good connection. This is enough to have a personalized estimate of the risk of depression. With cloakIn fact, it is enough to answer very simple questions about yourself and your daily life to know in advance how close or far you are from the so-called dark evil. This unprecedented tool, the first of its kind in the world, was developed by a scientific collaboration between the University of Ferrara and the universities of Bologna, New York and Stockholm, in a study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
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In detail Manto is an online tool (https://manto.unife.it/), which can be used free of charge and anonymously by the over 55 population, statistically more at risk, who are able to calculate the probability of developing depression in the following two years. Her name comes from the Greek mythology character Manto, the prophetess who created the lake of the city of Mantua with her tears. Definitely appropriate, given that it investigates a person’s risk of developing one of the most difficult and complicated pathologies of this century.
“According to the WHO, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world – underlines Martino Belvederi Murri of the Department of Neuroscience and Rehabilitation of the University of Ferrara, first author of the study – About 15% of people suffer from depression at least once in one’s own life: the consequences can range from transitory suffering to the loss of a job and social relationships, up to suicide”. «The impact of the pandemic, the isolation, the economic crisis and the rise in the average age – continues Murri – have meant that depression is becoming an extremely widespread economic and social problem, especially in second adulthood. Unfortunately, depression often goes unrecognized or doesn’t receive timely treatment. This depends on several factors, such as the lack of information, the stigma, or the scarcity of resources of public mental health services”.
With Manto, scientists propose an innovative approach to early identify and prevent depression (the most common pathology among women) for which various risk factors are known, including sleep disturbances, pain and other physical symptoms. These are elements that Manto seems able to detect and then transform into an estimate of the risk of developing the disease. To develop this tool, the researchers used estimates from the scientific literature and data from the European population, until obtaining a statistical model with good discriminative capacity. The score is calculated on the basis of data processing and artificial intelligence algorithms that start from information on risk factors.
To use Manto it is sufficient for a person to go to the site and answer some questions, strictly anonymously, about the symptoms of depression and some other aspects of life. You don’t have to fill them all in, but the more answers you provide, the more accurate your estimate will be. At the end of the short questionnaire (currently in Italian or English) the site will produce an estimate of the individual risk score, expressed as a percentage. If the risk score is high, for example greater than 60%, don’t panic: there are several ways to act. First of all, for example, changing your lifestyle, such as exercising or engaging in stimulating activities. Then sleep disturbances or pain symptoms can be treated. Numerous other treatments and preventive actions are also available, such as psychological, pharmacological and behavioral strategies, alone or in combination.
«Manto will therefore be able to have important positive effects both for the individual people who will use the site, and for health strategies», says Murri. Indeed, depression in old age has significant personal and health costs. The tool can also be used to identify at-risk populations for targeted public health interventions,” he adds. “It is a great satisfaction to finally be able to make available the fruit of a work that has engaged us in recent years”, comment the researchers. “Anyone has been able to estimate the risk of a heart attack for decades, but until now there were no similar tools available for mental health, which is certainly no less important. We hope that Manto will concretely serve people and professionals in the sector, general practitioners or specialists», they conclude.
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