The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was originally developed in the sixties, by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck, which worked as a great alternative to other methods of assessing depression requiring interviews by psychiatrists. The questionnaire is an easy to administer 21-item survey, which assesses dysfunction in a variety of domains such as cognition, emotion, and somatic symptoms (bodily symptoms such as changes in appetite). Essentially, higher scores are suggestive of higher levels of depression, although cut-off points for ‘having depression’ may vary by population (see von Glischinski et al., 2019). Although this questionnaire has been cited in thousands of peer reviewed journal articles, in the 1990s, it took on its second and most widely used form, the Beck Depression Inventory II.
The new version varies only slightly from the original (e.g., the old version had no age limit, but the second version requires people to be at least 13), and has been validated with the original and other measures of depression. For example, in a population of people from the Dominican Republic, it was found that the BDI II showed moderate to high levels of internal and external validity. Similar results were also found among a population of Korean adolescents. Likewise, the BDI II has also demonstrated itself to be a reliable tool for measuring depressive symptoms among individuals experiencing other illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, HIV, and Parkinson’s disease.
Overall, the BDI II has been well documented as a valid measure of depressive symptoms, across numerous populations and comorbid illnesses. Given that the questionnaire is essentially a multiple-choice test, with around 4 answers per each question, it makes it fairly easy to adapt for mobile applications. The combined effect of the simplicity of the BDI II packed in a mobile solution (as apposed to being administered in its most common paper form) may lend itself to more frequent assessments by users, which is crucial in assessing mental health status, as symptoms can vary over time.
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de Sá Junior, A. R., de Andrade, A. G., Andrade, L. H., Gorenstein, C., & Wang, Y. P. (2018). Response pattern of depressive symptoms among college students: What lies behind items of the Beck Depression Inventory-II?. Journal of affective disorders, 234, 124-130.
Dere, J., Watters, C. A., Yu, S. C. M., Bagby, R. M., Ryder, A. G., & Harkness, K. L. (2015). Cross-cultural examination of measurement invariance of the Beck Depression Inventory–II. Psychological Assessment, 27(1), 68.
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García-Batista, Z. E., Guerra-Peña, K., Cano-Vindel, A., Herrera-Martínez, S. X., & Medrano, L. A. (2018). Validity and reliability of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) in general and hospital population of Dominican Republic. PloS one, 13(6), e0199750.
Goodarzi, Z., Mrklas, K. J., Roberts, D. J., Jette, N., Pringsheim, T., & Holroyd-Leduc, J. (2016). Detecting depression in Parkinson disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurology, 87(4), 426-437.
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von Glischinski, M., von Brachel, R., & Hirschfeld, G. (2019). How depressed is “depressed”? A systematic review and diagnostic meta-analysis of optimal cut points for the Beck Depression Inventory revised (BDI-II). Quality of Life Research, 28(5), 1111-1118.