Assessing depressive symptoms in multiple sclerosis: is it necessary to omit items from the original Beck Depression Inventory?

J Behav Med. 1999 Apr;22(2):127-42. doi: 10.1023/a:1018731415172.


Overlap between depression scale item content and medical symptoms may exaggerate depression estimates for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). We reconsider Mohr and co-workers' (1997) recommendation to omit Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) items assessing work ability (item 15), fatigue (17), and health concerns (20) for MS patients. Subjects were medical patients with either MS (n = 105) or a medical disorder for which the BDI is empirically supported [diabetes mellitus (DM), n = 71; chronic pain (CP), n = 80], psychiatric patients with depressive disorder (MDD; n = 37), and healthy controls (HC; n = 80). Relative scores for the eight "somatic" BDI items were analyzed by multivariate analysis of variance with demographic variables and BDI total as covariates. The only significant difference was MS > HC (item 15). On raw scores, MS patients exceeded HCs on items 15 and 21 (sexual disinterest), but this was attributable to the low HC item endorsement. There were no other differences on somatic items or item-total correlations. Scale consistency was good across groups, regardless of item omission. Somatic items were unassociated with major MS parameters. We thus encourage continued application of the full BDI for assessing depressive symptoms in patients with MS.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / etiology
  • Diabetes Complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / complications
  • Low Back Pain / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / standards*
  • Psychometrics