Comparison of the GHQ-36, the GHQ-12 and the SCL-90 as psychiatric screening instruments in the Finnish population

Nord J Psychiatry. 2003;57(3):233-8. doi: 10.1080/08039480310001418.


The aim of the study was to compare the screening properties of two General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) versions and the Symptom Checklist (SCL-90), and to evaluate them as psychiatric screening instruments in Finland. We administered the GHQ-36 and the SCL-90 to psychiatric outpatients (n=207) and to a community sample (n=315). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to estimate the screening performance of the two instruments and of the GHQ-12 extracted from the GHQ-36. The screening properties of the scales were found to be good and similar. Suggested optimal cut-off points were 3/4 for the GHQ-12, 8/9 for the GHQ-36 and 0.90/0.91 for the SCL-90. In conclusion, the scales functioned equally well in screening. This favors the GHQ-12 for pure screening. When information on the symptom level is also needed, the GHQ-36 and the SCL-90 become better choices. The cut-off points presented here should be considered in the future Finnish psychiatric screening studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • ROC Curve
  • Reproducibility of Results