Monitoring mental wellbeing at a population level

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​Measuring population mental wellbeing

Mental health is a national public health priority for Scotland and until recently, there had been no assessment of the overall mental health of Scotland's population.

In order to establish baseline levels of population mental health and to track change over time, NHS Health Scotland was commissioned by the Scottish Government's National Programme for Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing (external link) to establish a core set of national mental health indicators to support the Scottish Governments drive in mental health improvement.

A set of adult mental health indicators was established and finalised in December 2007. These indicators covered both positive mental health (mental wellbeing) as well as mental health problems and were structured under categories of two types –

  • High level constructs of mental health status – outcome measures
  • Contextual constructs – covering the risk and protective factors of mental health

Data is currently collected on many of the indicators at a national level through national surveys. The main national surveys currently used for data collection amongst adults are the Scottish Health Survey and Scottish Household survey.

To read more about the adult mental health indicators or to access the most recent reports and findings visit the NHS Health Scotland adult indicators pages (external site)

Whilst mental health is monitored at a national level, there is considerable interest in measuring and monitoring mental health, including mental wellbeing, at a local level.

Measuring mental wellbeing at local level

A good starting point for measuring mental health at a local level is to make maximum use of the data that is already available for the local area of interest. Currently this is quite limited especially for areas smaller than NHS boards and Local Authorities.

National surveys are increasingly seeking to be responsive to local area needs. The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) has been included in the Scottish Health Survey (SheS) for adults since 2008 and for 13 to 15 years olds from 2012.  For smaller local authority areas, inclusion of WEMWBS in the Scottish Household Survey from 2009 will provide data on mental wellbeing for all local authorities, regardless of size.  

NB: Analysis of mental wellbeing is available for all NHS Boards since 2012; however in some of the smaller Local Authority analysis is not possible due to small sample sizes.

Other mental health indicators are separated at a regional level. The briefing paper 'Monitoring of mental health locally: Sub-national availability of data for the national mental health indicators for adults' will help local areas when making decisions about local mental health indicators. This paper indicates the main sub-national geographies at which the data for the national mental health indicators are available.  However, surveys are reviewed and revised on a regular basis so for the latest information contact the survey teams directly.

The Scottish Health Survey (external link) also produced a paper 'Scottish Health Survey Analysis by Local Authority or Health Board (2009)' which summarises when results for different sub-national geographies are available.


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