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BMC Health Serv Res. 2014 Sep 17;14:398. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-14-398.

Single item measures of self-rated mental health: a scoping review.

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School of Health Policy and Management, Faculty of Health, York University, 4700 Keele Street, HNES 414, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada.



A single-item measure of self-rated mental health (SRMH) is being used increasingly in health research and population health surveys. The item asks respondents to rate their mental health on a five-point scale from excellent to poor. This scoping study presents the first known review of the SRMH literature.


Electronic databases of Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, EMBASE and Cochrane Reviews were searched using keywords. The databases were also searched using the titles of surveys known to include the SRMH single item. The search was supplemented by manually searching the bibliographic sections of the included studies. Two independent reviewers coded articles for inclusion or exclusion based on whether articles included SRMH. Each study was coded by theme and data were extracted about study design, sample, variables, and results.


Fifty-seven studies included SRMH. SRMH correlated moderately with the following mental health scales: Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, Patient Health Questionnaire, mental health subscales of the Short-Form Health Status Survey, Behaviour and Symptom Identification Scale, and World Mental Health Clinical Diagnostic Interview Schedule. However, responses to this item may differ across racial and ethnic groups. Poor SRMH was associated with poor self-rated health, physical health problems, increased health service utilization and less likelihood of being satisfied with mental health services. Poor or fair SRMH was also associated with social determinants of health, such as low socioeconomic position, weak social connections and neighbourhood stressors. Synthesis of this literature provides important information about the relationships SRMH has with other variables.


SRMH is associated with multi-item measures of mental health, self-rated health, health problems, service utilization, and service satisfaction. Given these relationships and its use in epidemiologic surveys, SRMH should continue to be assessed as a population health measure. More studies need to examine relationships between SRMH and clinical mental illnesses. Longitudinal analyses should look at whether SRMH is predictive of future mental health problems.

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