Aims: This review presents the background work for developing a set of mental health indicators as part of a comprehensive health monitoring system in the European Union. The review focuses on the appraisal of mental health at population level with special emphasis on assessments that could be useful for mental health promotion.
Methods: A functional model of mental health is used to delineate variables important for a set of mental health indicators. Variables that are not possible to monitor at population level are not discussed here. Literature searches were conducted through the MEDLINE, PSYCHLIT, and SOCIOLOGICAL ABSTRACTS databases and available textbooks.
Results: The review presents findings from research seeking associations between mental health and ill health and different individual, social, economic, ecological, and service-related characteristics. Specific domains as key starting points in establishing a set of mental health indicators are outlined according to the research findings.
Conclusion: A set of mental health indicators can enhance the visibility of mental health issues in the European context. Ultimately the indicators could be used in estimating how the targets set for health policies are met, and whether there has been a measurable decrease in disability, suffering, and disease.