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Psychiatry Res. 2012 Dec 30;200(2-3):843-8. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.05.011. Epub 2012 May 30.

The Beck depression inventory-II in adolescent mental health patients: cut-off scores for detecting depression and rating severity.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Bavaria, Germany.


The Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition (BDI-II) was developed as an indicator of the presence and severity of depression in psychiatric patients from age 13. Its cut-off scores were derived from an adult sample and differentiate four categories of severity but contain no screening cut-off score for classifying patients as depressed vs. nondepressed. We aimed to determine this screening cut-off score and to examine the utility of the severity cut-off scores for adolescents in mental health care. 88 adolescent psychiatric patients (13-16 years, 58% female) completed the German BDI-II. A structured diagnostic interview served as the reference standard for computing receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves and identified 24 adolescents (27%) as depressed. ROC analysis of depressed vs. nondepressed patients yielded an area under the curve (AUC) value of 0.93. The optimal screening cut-off score according to Youden's Index was ≥23, where sensitivity was 0.88 and specificity was 0.92. The severity cut-off scores yielded satisfying sensitivity (≥0.89) and specificity (≥0.72) for mild and moderate but not for severe depression. Our findings indicate that the BDI-II can be recommended for screening for depressive disorders in adolescent mental health patients. However, the currently used severity cut-off scores may be suboptimal for this population.

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