Barthel Index for Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Assesses functional disability by quantifying patient performance in 10 activities of daily life (ADLs).

In the text below the scale you can find more information about the original study, instructions on applying the scale and rating it, as well as assessment limitations.

The Barthel Index for activities of daily living was introduced in 1965 by Barthel and Mahoney to be used in the assessment of the degree of assistance required by patients with stroke (other neuromuscular or musculoskeletal disorders or oncology patients) with regards to 10 items of mobility and self-care (ADL).

Specifically, it ranks the patient’s independence in the following domains: self-care, sphincter management, transfers and locomotion.

An overall score is reached by adding the scores for each item and this ranges from 0 to 100, in increments of 5, with higher results suggesting a greater degree of independence. The present scoring uses the interpretation by Sinoff 1997, but the Shah et al. 1989 interpretation can be found in the text below.

No. of Points (Sinoff 1997) Status
80–100 Independent
60–79 Minimally dependent
40–59 Partially dependent
20–39 Very dependent
<20 Totally dependent










Bowel control


Bladder control


Toilet use


Transfers (bed to chair and back)


Mobility on level surfaces



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About the BI for ADLs

The Barthel Index for activities of daily living was first published in 1965 by Barthel and Mahoney in the Maryland State Medical Journal.

The scale’s purpose is to measure performance and patient independence (or degree of assistance required) with respect to self-care, sphincter management, transfers and locomotion.

Originally, the index was designed to be used in scoring improvement during rehabilitation of patients with chronic neuromuscular or musculoskeletal disorder and continues to be used so but has also been validated in studies on patient populations with: primary brain tumors and brain metastases (4-7).

The index consists of 10 items (scored in increments of 5 points) that relate to activities of daily living (ADLs) and is calculated by summing the response value to each of these items.

The scale has been used extensively in settings for in-patient rehabilitation, to monitor functional changes in individuals having suffered from stroke and predict length of stay, as well as degree of care required.

The 10 items assessed relate to:

■ Help needed with feeding;

■ Help needed with bathing;

■ Help needed with grooming;

■ Help needed with dressing;

■ Presence or absence of fecal incontinence;

■ Presence or absence of urinary incontinence;

■ Help needed with transfers;

■ Help needed with walking;

■ Help needed with climbing stairs.

The test can be administered in up to 5 minutes and the direct testing of the patient is not needed. The evidence required to evaluate the patient’s performance (the record of what the patient does, not of what they can do) can be derived from relatives, friends, nurses).

It is important to establish the patient’s degree of independence from any help, whether of verbal or physical nature, of, usually, longer periods of time, as opposed to the preceding 24-48 hours, but please note that the Barthel Index should not be used standalone for predicting outcomes in stroke patients. The assessment should also account for the amount of time and assistance a patient requires for each of the items.


Result interpretation

The Barthel Index measures functional disability in 10 ADLs by quantifying patient performance. 5-point increments are used in scoring, with a maximal score of 100 indicating full independence in physical functioning whilst a lowest score of 0 indicating a patient with a complete bed-bound state.

The higher the score following the Barthel Index assessment, the greater the likelihood for the patient to be able to live at home, independently, with varying degrees of help and care, following discharge from hospital.

There are also concerns that the scoring method is inconsistent in that changes by a given number of points do not necessarily reflect equivalent changes in patient performance across different activities.

The Sinoff 1997 Interpretation:

No. of Points Status
80–100 Independent
60–79 Minimally dependent
40–59 Partially dependent
20–39 Very dependent
<20 Totally dependent

The Shah et al. 1989 Interpretation:

No. of Points Status
91–99 Slight dependency
61–90 Moderate dependency
21–60 Severe dependency
0–20 Total dependency

Barthel Index reliability

The scale is considered easy to use, with good reliability and sensitivity to change, mainly in predicting the functional outcomes related to stroke. The Index has shown portability and has been successfully used in 16 major diagnostic conditions with satisfactory (fair to moderate) reliability and validity.

Shah reported alpha internal consistency coefficients of 0.87 to 0.92 (admission and discharge). Self-report accorded least well with the other methods; agreement was lowest for items on transfers, feeding, dressing, grooming and toileting. Roy et al. found an inter-rater correlation of 0.99 and with patient self-report, 0.88.

Validity was found to be between 0.73 and 0.77 when compared with an index of motor ability for 976 stroke patients.


Scale limitations

Concerns about the Barthel Index mostly revolve around its interpretability as there are several versions of the index and scorings available.

Collin et al. introduced a modification of the index where each domain was scored in 1-point increments with scores ranging from 0 to 20, under the argument that the original scoring system gave a disproportionate impression of accuracy. Collin et al. also reordered the 10 items and clarified the instruction.

Shah et al. retained the original 10 items but proposed five-point rating scales for each item to improve sensitivity to detecting change.

It is also considered that the scale is somewhat restricted in the sense that some improvements may not become apparent, enough to be quantified on scale, as the patient may still be in the position to require some degree of physical assistance to perform a task.

To eliminate the tendency for the patient to overestimate their own abilities, it is best for the Barthel Index to be administered by clinical staff.

The index is also limited as it does not account for situational factors (i.e. adaptations to the environment, ramps etc), so there is the argument that the test should be administered in an environment that best simulates the one to which the patient would return upon discharge, to prevent falsely lower or higher scores.

Also, some patients may score close to 100, thus indicating full independence in the 10 tested ADLs but still require some assistance with other ADLs, not included in the index.

The index is not meant to be used in isolation to predict functional outcomes and should be combined with findings from other parts of clinical examination and functional assessment of the patient.

Copyright Information

Barthel Index© MedChi, 1965. All Rights Reserved.

The Maryland State Medical Society holds the copyright for the Barthel Index. It may be used freely for noncommercial purposes with the following citation:

Mahoney FI, Barthel D. “Functional evaluation: the Barthel Index.”

Maryland State Med Journal 1965;14:56-61. Used with permission.

Permission is required to modify the Barthel Index or to use it for commercial purposes.



Original reference

Mahoney FI, Barthel D. Functional evaluation: The Barthel Index. Maryland State Medical Journal 1965; 14:56-61.


Granger CV, Dewis LS, Peters NC, Sherwood CC, Barrett JE. Stroke rehabilitation: analysis of repeated Barthel index measures. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1979; 60(1):14-7.

Collin, C., et al. The Barthel ADL Index: a reliability study. International disability studies 10.2 (1988): 61-63.

Other references

Sinoff G, Ore L. The Barthel activities of daily living index: self-reporting versus actual performance in the old-old (> or = 75 years). J Am Geriatr Soc. 1997; 45(7):832-6.

Shah S, Vanclay F, Cooper B. Improving the sensitivity of the Barthel Index for stroke rehabilitation. J Clin Epidemiol. 1989; 42(8):703-9.

Lam, Simon C.; Lee, Diana T. F.; Yu, Doris S. F. Establishing CUTOFF Values for the Simplified Barthel Index in Elderly Adults in Residential Care Homes. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2014; 62 (3): 575–577.

Specialty: Rehabilitation Medicine

System: Nervous

Objective: Assessment

Type: Scale

No. Of Items: 10

Year Of Study: 1965

Abbreviation: B1

Article By: Denise Nedea

Published On: April 6, 2020

Last Checked: April 6, 2020

Next Review: April 6, 2025