Background: Social inclusion is increasingly recognized as a key outcome for evaluating global mental health programmes and interventions. Whereas social inclusion as an outcome is not a new concept in the field of mental health, its measurement has been hampered by varying definitions, concepts and instruments. To move the field forward, this paper reviews the currently available instruments which measure social inclusion and are reported in the literature, realizing that no single measure will be appropriate for all studies or contexts.
Methods: A systematic literature search of English language peer-reviewed articles published through February 2013 was undertaken to identify scales specifically developed to measure social inclusion or social/community integration among populations with mental disorders.
Results: Five instruments were identified through the search criteria. The scales are discussed in terms of their theoretical underpinnings, domains and/or key items and their potential for use in global settings. Whereas numerous reviewed abstracts discussed mental health and social inclusion or social integration, very few were concerned with direct measurement of the construct. All identified scales were developed in high-income countries with limited attention paid to how the scale could be adapted for cross-cultural use.
Conclusions: Social inclusion is increasingly highlighted as a key outcome for global mental health policies and programmes, yet its measurement is underdeveloped. There is need for a global cross-cultural measure that has been developed and tested in diverse settings. However, until that need is met, some of the scales presented here may be amenable to adaptation.
Keywords: Social inclusion; cross-cultural; measurement; mental health; social integration.