Validity of the mental health component scale of the 12-item Short-Form Health Survey (MCS-12) as measure of common mental disorders in the general population

Psychiatry Res. 2007 Jul 30;152(1):63-71. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2006.11.005. Epub 2007 Mar 29.


This study assessed the screening utility of the 12-item Short-Form Health Survey's (SF-12) mental health component scale (MCS-12) for diagnosable depression and anxiety disorders in a general population sample, and thus, the validity of this scale as a measure of mental health in epidemiological research. Data were from the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (N=10,504). Diagnoses were made using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. The MCS-12 was compared to other brief scales: the RAND Mental Health Component scale (RAND MHC-12, an alternative scoring method for the MCS-12), the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10 and K6), and an estimate of the Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5). The MCS-12 and RAND MHC-12 were equally able to discriminate respondents with the target diagnoses. The MCS-12 performed better than the GHQ-12, and equally to the K6 for diagnoses of depression, though not anxiety disorders, where the K6 showed greater utility. The K10 out-performed the MCS-12 for all diagnoses. Areas under receiver operating characteristics curves (AUC) indicated that the MCS-12 is valid measure of mental health in epidemiological research, and a useful screening tool for both depression (AUC=0.92) and anxiety disorders (AUC=0.83).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • ROC Curve
  • Reproducibility of Results