Open Access Open Badges Research article

Computerized adaptive measurement of depression: A simulation study

William Gardner1*, Katherine Shear2, Kelly J Kelleher1, Kathleen A Pajer1, Oommen Mammen2, Daniel Buysse2 and Ellen Frank2

Author affiliations

1 Pediatrics, Children's Research Institute and Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

2 Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Psychiatry 2004, 4:13  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-4-13

Published: 6 May 2004



Efficient, accurate instruments for measuring depression are increasingly important in clinical practice. We developed a computerized adaptive version of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). We examined its efficiency and its usefulness in identifying Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) and in measuring depression severity.


Subjects were 744 participants in research studies in which each subject completed both the BDI and the SCID. In addition, 285 patients completed the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale.


The adaptive BDI had an AUC as an indicator of a SCID diagnosis of MDE of 88%, equivalent to the full BDI. The adaptive BDI asked fewer questions than the full BDI (5.6 versus 21 items). The adaptive latent depression score correlated r = .92 with the BDI total score and the latent depression score correlated more highly with the Hamilton (r = .74) than the BDI total score did (r = .70).


Adaptive testing for depression may provide greatly increased efficiency without loss of accuracy in identifying MDE or in measuring depression severity.

Mood Disorders, Unipolar; Computers; Diagnosis and Classification; Tests/Interviews, Psychometrics