The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI, BDI-II), created by Dr. Aaron T. Beck, is a 21-question multiple-choice self-report inventory, one of the most widely used instruments for measuring the severity of depression. Its development marked a shift among health care professionals, who had until then viewed depression from a psychodynamic perspective, instead of it being rooted in the patient’s own thoughts. We typically use the BDI-II.
The original BDI, first published in 1961, consisted of twenty-one questions about how the subject has been feeling in the last week. Each question has a set of at least four possible answer choices, ranging in intensity. For example:
(0) I do not feel sad. (1) I feel sad. (2) I am sad all the time and I can't snap out of it. (3) I am so sad or unhappy that I can't stand it.
When the test is scored, a value of 0 to 3 is assigned for each answer and then the total score is compared to a key to determine the depression’s severity. The standard cut-offs are as follows:
0–9: indicates minimal depression 10–18: indicates mild depression 19–29: indicates moderate depression 30–63: indicates severe depression.
Higher total scores indicate more severe depressive symptoms.
Some items on the BDI have more than one statement marked with the same score. For instance, there are two responses under the Mood heading that score a 2: (2a) I am blue or sad all the time and I can’t snap out of it and (2b) I am so sad or unhappy that it is very painful.
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Scoring files were written in the R statistical programming language by John Curtin and are free for reuse.
Beck, A. T., Ward, C. H., Mendelson, M., Mock, J., & ERBAUGH, J. (1961). An inventory for measuring depression. Archives of general psychiatry, 4(6), 561-571.
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