The predictive value of mental health for long-term sickness absence: the Major Depression Inventory (MDI) and the Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5) compared

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2013 Sep 17;13:115. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-13-115.


Background: Questionnaires are valuable for population surveys of mental health. Different survey instruments may however give different results. The present study compares two mental health instruments, the Major Depression Inventory (MDI) and the Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5), in regard to their prediction of long-term sickness absence.

Method: Questionnaire data was collected from N = 4153 Danish employees. The questionnaire included the MDI and the MHI-5. The information of long-term sickness absence was obtained from a register. We used Cox regression to calculate covariance adjusted hazard ratios for long-term sickness absence for both measures.

Results: Both the MDI and the MHI-5 had a highly significant prediction of long-term sickness absence. A one standard deviation change in score was associated with an increased risk of long-term sickness absence of 27% for the MDI and 37% for the MHI-5. When both measures were included in the same analysis, the MHI-5 performed best.

Conclusion: In general population surveys, the MHI-5 is a better predictor of long-term sickness absence than the MDI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sick Leave
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult