Calibrating well-being, quality of life and common mental disorder items: psychometric epidemiology in public mental health research

Jan Boehnke (Lead / Corresponding author), Tim J. Croudace

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Background: The assessment of "general health and well-being" in public mental health research stimulates debates around relative merits of questionnaire instruments and their items. Little evidence regarding alignment or differential advantages of instruments or items has appeared to date.

Aims: Population-based psychometric study of items employed in public mental health narratives.

Methods: Multidimensional item response theory was applied to GHQ-12, WEMWBS and EQ-5D items (Health Survey for England, 2010-2012; N = 19 290).

Results: A bifactor model provided the best account of the data and showed that the GHQ-12 and WEMWBS items assess mainly the same construct. Only one item of the EQ-5D showed relevant overlap with this dimension (anxiety/depression). Findings were corroborated by comparisons with alternative models and cross-validation analyses.

Conclusions: The consequences of this lack of differentiation (GHQ-12 vs. WEMWBS) for mental health and well-being narratives deserve discussion to enrich debates on priorities in public mental health and its assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-168
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date3 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016



  • Epidemiology
  • General health
  • Psychological distress
  • Mental well-being
  • Psychometrics
  • Item response theory

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