The Beck depression inventory as a measure of subjective well-being: A cross-national study

D.A. van Hemert, F.J.R. van de Vijver, Y.H. Poortinga

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Abstract

The present study examined the question whether the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), which is one of the most widely used instruments to assess depression, can be used to measure differences in subjective well-being at national level. In order to establish the meaning of depression scores at country level, the functional equivalence (i.e., similarity of meaning) of depression scores at individual and country level was examined. Studies using the BDI in normal populations from 28 countries were collected. Depression showed the same correlates at individual and country level, which supports the functional equivalence of the BDI at the two levels. BDI scores and subjective well-being were then correlated with a number of country characteristics in order to test three theories of cross-national differences in subjective well-being. Livability theory stresses the importance of objective living conditions, comparison theory focuses on relative living conditions, and folklore theory states that cross-national differences can be explained by some national trait (e.g., beliefs and values concerning happiness). Cross-national differences in depression and subjective well-being could be explained by livability theory and folklore theory. BDI scores were negatively correlated with subjective well-being and other happiness-related variables. These findings suggest that depression had the same meaning at individual and country level and that depression is an adequate measure of (a lack of) subjective well-being at country level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-286
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Volume3
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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