Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Online health quizzes - worth taking?

A couple of online health quizzes have been making the news lately - one claims to predict the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease and the other says it can predict the chances of you becoming ill later in life. Are these quizzes worth taking? Are they helpful at all?

Quizzes are popular. Take a look at Facebook on any given day and you can find quizzes to identify what rock star you might be, or what TV parent you are most like. You can learn about what color, flower, or food you are. But these are harmless, fun quizzes - what about the health quizzes that claim to tell you how long you are going to live?

We can't deny that the possibility of developing Alzheimer's disease or any type of cognitive (mental) impairment worries many of us. The idea of losing our memory and not being able to manage with every day activities is frightening. But at this point, we can't really tell who will and who will not lose their memory.

Researchers from Baycrest Health Services in Toronto, Canada, developed the Cogniciti's Brain Health Assessment, that takes about 20 to 25 minutes to complete. The developers claim that their test is superior to others on the Internet because it was based on a study of 400 people. When you complete the study, your results show you how well you did compared with others your age and with your level of education. Will this test predict your memory loss risk? No, but it may reassure you if you were worried that you were losing your memory.

A word of caution. People who are not online savvy may find quizzes like this and be duped into buying products that are supposed to help you minimize or prevent memory loss. If you are looking for quizzes to do, you should not have to provide identifying information and you should not be asked to buy a product. Look for educational websites, from hospitals or universities, or registered organizations to be safest. (Silver surfers targeted)

The second one making the news is the Ontario Life Expectancy Calculator. This quiz asks about your lifestyle and habits and it calculates how long you might live based on your responses. According to the quiz, I should be fairly healthy and live to the age of 93.5 years. Good, that gives me some time yet but I still will look both ways before crossing the street and wear my bike helmet. The goal of these types of quizzes, such as the life expectancy ones, is likely to have the quiz taker look at the results and try to improve on the modifiable lifestyle factors.

If you like to take these types of quizzes, PsychCentral has a whole collection of them that range from serious topics, like suicide risk, to a Facebook intensity quiz.

What do you think of health-related quizzes?

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