Measuring positive mental health in Canada: construct validation of the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form.

Research paper by Heather H Orpana, Julie J Vachon, Jennifer J Dykxhoorn, Gayatri G Jayaraman

Indexed on: 14 Apr '17Published on: 14 Apr '17Published in: Health promotion and chronic disease prevention in Canada : research, policy and practice


Positive mental health is increasingly recognized as an important focus for public health policies and programs. In Canada, the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (MHC-SF) was identified as a promising measure to include on population surveys to measure positive mental health. It proposes to measure a three-factor model of positive mental health including emotional, social and psychological well-being. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the MHC-SF is an adequate measure of positive mental health for Canadian adults.We conducted confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) using data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS)-Mental Health Component (CCHS-MH), and cross-validated the model using data from the CCHS 2011-2012 annual cycle. We examined criterion-related validity through correlations of MHC-SF subscale scores with positively and negatively associated concepts (e.g. life satisfaction and psychological distress, respectively).We confirmed the validity of the three-factor model of emotional, social and psychological well-being through CFA on two independent samples, once four correlated errors between items on the social well-being scale were added. We observed significant correlations in the anticipated direction between emotional, psychological and social well-being scores and related concepts. Cronbach's alpha for both emotional and psychological well-being subscales was 0.82; for social well-being it was 0.77.Our study suggests that the MHC-SF measures a three-factor model of positive mental health in the Canadian population. However, caution is warranted when using the social well-being scale, which did not function as well as the other factors, as evidenced by the need to add several correlated error terms to obtain adequate model fit, a higher level of missing data on these questions and weaker correlations with related constructs. Social well-being is important in a comprehensive measure of positive mental health, and further research is recommended.