Chapter 12 Beck Depression Index

12.1 Background

The Beck Depression Index (BDI) is a 21-item, self-report rating inventory that measures characteristic attitudes and symptoms of depression (BECK 1961). The BDI-II was a 1996 revision of the BDI (Beck et al. 1996) developed in response to the American Psychiatric Association’s publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, which changed many of the diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder.

Items involving changes in body image, hypochondriasis, and difficulty working were replaced. Also, sleep loss and appetite loss items were revised to assess both increases and decreases in sleep and appetite. All but three of the items were reworded; only the items dealing with feelings of being punished, thoughts about suicide, and interest in sex remained the same. Finally, participants were asked to rate how they have been feeling for the past two weeks, as opposed to the past week as in the original BDI.

Like the BDI, the BDI-II also contains 21 questions, each answer being scored on a scale value of 0 to 3. Higher total scores indicate more severe depressive symptoms. The standardized cutoffs used differ from the original:

  • 0–13: minimal depression
  • 14–19: mild depression
  • 20–28: moderate depression
  • 29–63: severe depression.

It should be noted that several papers have been written on the underlying dimensions of the BDI on whether the instrument captures two underlying constructs (somatic and cognitive) or three (somatic, cognitive and affective) (Corbi‘ere et al. 2011)

More information on the Beck Depression Index (BDI) can also be found at the website of the American Psychological Association.


BECK, A. T. 1961. “An Inventory for Measuring Depression.” Archives of General Psychiatry 4 (6). American Medical Association (AMA):561.

Beck, Aaron T., Robert A. Steer, Roberta Ball, and William F. Ranieri. 1996. “Comparison of Beck Depression Inventories-IA and-II in Psychiatric Outpatients.” Journal of Personality Assessment 67 (3). Informa UK Limited:588–97.

Corbi‘ere, Marc, Arielle Bonneville-Roussy, Ren’ee-Louise Franche, Marie-France Coutu, Manon Choini‘ere, Marie-Jos’e Durand, and Aline Boulanger. 2011. “Further Validation of the BDI-II Among People with Chronic Pain Originating from Musculoskeletal Disorders.” The Clinical Journal of Pain 27 (1). Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health):62–69.