On the validity of the Beck Depression Inventory. A review

Psychopathology. 1998;31(3):160-8. doi: 10.1159/000066239.


The present review discusses validity aspects of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) on the basis of meta-analyses of studies on the psychometric properties. Shortcomings of the BDI are its high item difficulty, lack of representative norms, and thus doubtful objectivity of interpretation, controversial factorial validity, instability of scores over short time intervals (over the course of 1 day), and poor discriminant validity against anxiety. Advantages of the inventory are its high internal consistency, high content validity, validity in differentiating between depressed and nondepressed subjects, sensitivity to change, and international propagation. The present paper outlines agreements and contradictions between the various studies on the BDI and discusses the potential factors (composition of the subject sample, statistical procedures, point in time of measurement) accounting for the variance in their results. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) is world-wide among the most used self-rating scales for measuring depression. Since the test construction in 1961, the test has been employed in numerous (more than 2,000) empirical studies. The present review will only consider those investigations which are primarily concerned with the validity or the psychometric properties of the BDI. Since most studies are oriented along the criteria of the classical test theory, our review will discuss to what extent the BDI meets these criteria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder / classification
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics
  • Sensitivity and Specificity