A measure of cognitions specific to seasonal depression: Development and validation of the seasonal beliefs questionnaire

Kelly J. Rohan*, Jonah Meyerhoff, Sheau Yan Ho, Kathryn A. Roecklein, Yael I. Nillni, Joel J. Hillhouse, Michael J. DeSarno, Pamela M. Vacek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We introduce the Seasonal Beliefs Questionnaire (SBQ), a self-report inventory of maladaptive thoughts about the seasons, light availability, and weather conditions, proposed to constitute a unique cognitive vulnerability to winter seasonal affective disorder (SAD; Rohan, Roecklein, & Haaga, 2009). Potential items were derived from a qualitative analysis of self-reported thoughts during SAD-tailored cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT-SAD) and subsequently refined based on qualitative feedback from 48 SAD patients. In the psychometric study (N = 536 college students), exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses pruned the items to a 26-item scale with a 5-factor solution, demonstrating good internal consistency, convergent and divergent validity, and 2-week test-retest reliability. In a known groups comparison, the SBQ discriminated SAD patients (n = 86) from both nonseasonal major depressive disorder (MDD) patients (n = 30) and healthy controls (n = 110), whereas a generic measure of depressogenic cognitive vulnerability (the Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale [DAS]) discriminated MDD patients from the other groups. In a randomized clinical trial comparing CBT-SAD with light therapy (N = 177), SBQ scores improved at twice the rate in CBT-SAD than in light therapy. Greater change in SBQ scores during CBT-SAD, but not during light therapy, was associated with a lower risk of depression recurrence 2 winters later. In contrast, DAS scores improved comparably during CBT-SAD and light therapy, and DAS change was unrelated to recurrence following either treatment. These results support using the SBQ as a brief assessment tool for a SAD-specific cognitive vulnerability and as a treatment target in CBT-SAD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-938
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological assessment
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Cognitive measure
  • Cognitive vulnerability
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Seasonality
  • Treatment mechanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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