Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)

BioPsychoSocial Assessment Tools for the Elderly - Assessment Summary Sheet

Test: Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)

Year: 1961

Domain: Psychological

Assessment Tool Category: Mental Health

Variations/Translations: Revised version in 1971 (BDI-1A), and the BDI-II, published in 1996

Setting: Clinical

Method of Delivery: In person survey (self-administered more common) or questionnaire.

Description: The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) is a 21-item test presented in multiple-choice format, which measures presence and degree of depression in adolescents and adults consistent with the DSM-IV. It is not intended as a diagnostic instrument. It is used mostly as a screening instrument and for clinical research. Each of the 21-items of the BDI attempts to assess a specific symptom or attitude which appear(s) to be specific to depressed patients, and which are consistent with descriptions of the depression contained in the psychiatric literature. The BDI evaluates 21 symptoms of depression, 15 of which cover emotions, four cover behavioural changes, and six somatic symptoms. The 21 items cover sadness, pessimism, past failure, self-dislike, self-criticism, suicidal thoughts or wishes, crying, agitation, loss of interest, indecisiveness, worthlessness, loss of energy, changes in sleeping patterns, irritability, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, tiredness or fatigue, and loss of interest in sex. The reading level of the revised version is at a fifth or sixth grade level.

Scoring/Interpretation: Each answer is scored on a scale value of 0-3. Measures of 0–9 indicates that a person is not depressed, 10–18 indicates mild-moderate depression, 19–29 indicates moderate-severe depression and 30–63 indicates severe depression. General guidelines of scores are: Less than 10 = no or minimal depression,10-18 = mild-to-moderate depression,19-29 = moderate-to-severe depression, 30+ = severe depression.

Time to Administer: 5-10 minutes

Availability: Available for purchase from Psychological Corporation

Software: N/A


Quantitative/Qualitative: Quantitative

Validity (Quantitative): Beck reviewed 11 studies and displayed that the BDI was capable of discriminating between groups that contrasted in level of depression. Content validity would seem to be quite high since the BDI appears to evaluate a wide variety of symptoms and attitudes associated with depression. Beck reports studies in which coefficients of .65 and .67 were obtained in comparing results of the BDI with psychiatric ratings of patients. Correlations with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) ranged from 0.61 to 0.86 in five studies with psychiatric patients. A correlation of 0.62 was reported with the Hopkins Symptom Checklist depression score. At a cutting-point of 9/10, sensitivity was 84.6% and specificity was 86.4%. BDI had a higher sensitivity and specificity compared with the DSM-II made by clinical psychologists.

Reliability (Quantitative): Beck’s original paper reported an internal consistency studies demonstrated a correlation coefficient of .86 for the test items, and the Spearman-Brown correlation for the reliability of the BDI yielded a coefficient of .93. A split-half reliability of 0.86 was given in addition to yielding alpha coefficients ranging from 0.76 to 0.95 in psychiatric samples. Test-retest reliability ranged from 0.48 to 0.86 in give studies of psychiatric patients and 0.60 to 0.83 in six non-psychiatric populations. These results were confirmed year later and in different populations. The BDI-II showed higher reliability scores across all fields. For more information, see the references.


Beck, A.T., Ward, C., & Mendelson, M. (1961). "Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)". Archives of General Psychiatry, 4, 561-571.

McDowell, I. & Newell, C. (1996). Measuring Health: A Guide to Rating Scales and Questionnaires. (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

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