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A hierarchy of distress: Mokken scaling of the GHQ-30

Watson, R.; Deary, I. J.; Shipley, B.


I. J. Deary

B. Shipley


Background. Hierarchical cumulative scales are common and informative in psychology. The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) does not appear to have been subjected to an analysis that examines the hierarchical and cumulative nature of its items. We report an analysis of data from the 30-item GHQ (GHQ-30) as part of the Health and Lifestyle Survey (HALS). Method. Data from 6317 participants who completed the GHQ-30 as part of the HALS were analysed using the Mokken Scaling Procedure (MSP), which is a computer program that searches polychotomous data for hierarchical and cumulative scales on the basis of a range of diagnostic criteria. Results. A final scale consisting of nine items from the GHQ-30 was obtained that, according to the criteria for a Mokken scale, was a reliable and very strong scale. The least difficult item in the scale is 'been (un)able to face up to your problems?' and the most difficult item is 'felt that life isn't worth living?' Conclusions. Items from the GHQ-30 form a short hierarchical and cumulative scale. The majority of these items also appear in the GHQ-12. The nine-item GHQ shows better distribution properties than the GHQ-30 and compares very favourably with the GHQ-12. © 2008 Cambridge University Press.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2008-04
Print ISSN 0033-2917
Electronic ISSN 1469-8978
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 4
Pages 575-579
APA6 Citation Watson, R., Deary, I. J., & Shipley, B. (2008). A hierarchy of distress: Mokken scaling of the GHQ-30. Psychological Medicine, 38(4), 575-579.
Keywords general health; item response theory; Mokken scaling