A critical review of Internet information about depression

T. L. Lissman, J. K. Boehnlein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Objective: The source and quality of information about depression available on the Internet were examined. Methods: Online searches using the phrase "depression and treatment" were conducted on ten major Internet search engines. The first 20 sites generated by each engine were examined. The Web sites and the individual Web pages they contained were categorized by source, target audience, and affiliation with either a for-profit or a not-for-profit organization. Each site was rated by whether it mentioned the nine symptoms and five major criteria of a major depressive episode and whether it made any of three basic treatment recommendations. Ratings were compared to determine whether treatment differences between the sites could be attributed to the site's source. Results: The search generated a total of 178 active sites. Overall, the quality of information was poor. Only half of the sites mentioned any DSM-IV diagnostic symptom or criteria in their descriptions of depression, and only a quarter listed 11 to 14 symptoms or criteria. Almost half of the sites made no mention of medications, psychotherapy, or professional consultation as suggested treatments for depression. Almost two-thirds of the pages were found on for-profit sites. Documents from these sites scored lower on diagnostic accuracy and treatment recommendations than those from not-for-profit sites. Conclusions: The quality of information on the Internet produced by the search was quite low. For-profit Web sites appeared much more frequently than not-for-profit sites among the first 20 sites generated by each search engine, and they contained poorer information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1046-1050
Number of pages5
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 29 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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