The BSQ is a self-report measure of the body shape preoccupations typical of bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. It was first reported in: Cooper, P.J., M.J. Taylor, Z. Cooper & C.G. Fairburn (1986). The development and validation of the Body Shape Questionnaire. International Journal of Eating Disorders 6: 485-494.
The full detail is in Melanie's thesis: "The Nature and Significance of Body Image Disturbance". Melanie J Taylor. Wolfson College Cambridge 1987. A paper copy is kept in the Library for Experimental Psychology at the university but courtesy of Melanie sacrificing one of her paper copies and me cutting it up and putting it through a scanner, an electronic copy is now online. Go to the BSQ thesis directory to get it in total or parts.
The copyright rests legally with at least one of those four people and I have been able to contact all of them (M.J. Taylor is now M.J. Bash) and they are all happy for people to copy and the use full or shortened BSQs provided that the text is not changed in any further way.

Creating other forms

Please note, these short forms, the two 16 item versions and the four 8 item versions are the only shortened forms that are approved for use by the BSQ's copyright holders: they do not permit they do not permit creation of other short forms and regard doing so as copyright violation and bad science. This is because they believe, rightly clearly, that creation of other short forms allows more and more non-comparable results to come into the literature. We also believe that the provision of the full, the two 16 item and the four 8 item forms leaves little or no real need for other short forms to be created.

Approved shortened forms of the BSQ

The approved short forms came into existence when I did some work on the psychometric properties of the full BSQ based on data largely from women with bulimia that Bridget Dolan had collected. I suggested that four near parallel eight item short forms and two near parallel 16 item forms could be extracted from it with very little loss of internal reliability. That work was published in: Evans, C. & Dolan, B. (1993). Body Shape Questionnaire: derivation of shortened "alternate forms". International Journal of Eating Disorders 13(3): 315-321.

Using the BSQ with men

The BSQ was designed for use with women but Melanie Bash (nee Taylor, lead developer of the BSQ) has recently confirmed approved changes to three items allowing the BSQ to be used with men given the increasing prevalence of, and recognition of, eating disorders and body shape concerns, in men. The changes are:

Item 9 now reads - "Has being with thin men made you feel self-conscious about your shape?"

Item 12 now reads - "Have you noticed the shape of other men and felt that your shape compared unfavourably?"

Item 25 now reads - "Have you felt that it is not fair that other men are thinner than you?"

This form of the BSQ, and the derivative shortened forms for men, will be made available here when I have time to make the changes. Results from men should be explored psychometrically and scores not just compared directly to referential scores from women as the psychology of body shape concerns may differ between men and women even in men with clear anorexia nervosa or bulimia.


People often ask about the scoring. Each item is scored 1 to 6 with "Never" = 1 and "Always" = 6 and the overall score is the total across the 34 items, i.e. a theoretical score range from 34 to 204. (I prefer tools which score items from 0 to x rather than 1 to x and where the overall score is the mean, but I didn't create the BSQ so wouldn't change what the authors have chosen.)

I think we had essentially no omitted items in our data from motivated people seeking treatment. However that may not always be the case and I tend to use a "10% prorating" approach to all measures where someone has missed out an item. That's to say that for the BSQ16 I would prorate (multiply by 16/15 the total across the 15 they did answer) but I wouldn't do that if someone missed out more than one item as that would take me over the 10% criterion. That's a general rule and I'm certainly not the only one to use it and I do make sure I declare it in the methods section of a paper when I do use it. It's not "official" and I don't think anything was said in our paper or the original papers on the BSQ.

Scoring the short forms

The scoring of the short forms is based on the same principle: add up the scores on the items. Very roughly, you can convert a score on a 16 item version to what its equivalent is on the full BSQ by multiplying the score on the 16 item version by 34/16. By the same principle you can convert scores on any 8 item version to BSQ equivalent score by multiplying by 34/8. Bear in mind that this IS approximate: because different items will have different probabilities of being scored positively at the same level of body shape preoccupation a score on one item is not equivalent to a score on another item and a so such rescaling is always only a guide. There are ways to get better rescaling rules based on empirical data using the measures or just based on looking at the scores on the items in the shorter forms when embedded in the full form. I'm not aware of work like that having been published for the BSQ though. Do please Email me if you seen it reported for any of the short forms.

Cutting points for classifying scores

People also ask about cutting points between "normal" and "abnormal". As far as I know, there are none. Given the complex cultural and other determinants of general body image concerns and of frank clinical eating disorders, I believe that any cutting points should be checked very carefully and not assumed to generalise across cultures.

Melanie (Bash, née Taylor) has the following in her thesis but not in the original paper about the BSQ:

Classification of full BSQ scores
less than 80 no concern with shape
80 to 110 mild concern with shape
111 to 140 moderate concern with shape
over 140 marked concern with shape

As noted above, at least for UK English samples, it is currently reasonable to convert those cutting points on the full BSQ to get cutting points for the 16 item and 8 item versions by multiplying the BSQ cutting points by 16/34 and by 8/34 respectively. That gives these cutting points for the 16 item short forms.

Equivalent cutting points for 16 item short forms
less than 38 no concern with shape
38 to 51 mild concern with shape
52 to 66 moderate concern with shape
over 66 marked concern with shape

and for the 8 item versions:

Equivalent cutting points for 8 item short forms
less than 19 no concern with shape
19 to 25 mild concern with shape
26 to 33 moderate concern with shape
over 33 marked concern with shape

As noted above, that's not a great way of working out new cutting points for the short forms as the different items can have rather different mean scores (in clinical and in non-clinical samples) so multiplying by the numbers of items is not going to guarantee the best possible map from one version to another. Even for the UK this way of multiplying the BSQ category cutting points by the reduced numbers of items in the 16 and 8 item short forms is really only a sensible guide pending other empirical data from large clinical and non-clinical samples emerging.

Given the complex cultural and other determinants of general body image concerns and of frank clinical eating disorders, I believe that for other cultures and for translated versions, any cutting points should be based on local data not transferred from those UK guidelines assuming generalisability across cultures and languages.


I haven't worked in body image or eating disorders for over a decade now but I do continue to work on the psychometrics and other instruments (mostly CORE-OM and shortened forms and PSYCHLOPS and have been suprised not to see work on the psychometrics of the BSQ being published. If you're interested in doing a good analysis of moderately large dataset of BSQ34 data to recheck the shortening specification or with any other interest and you need psychometric help and would trade for authorship, do Email me!