The heritability of mental health and wellbeing defined using COMPAS-W, a new composite measure of wellbeing

Psychiatry Res. 2014 Sep 30;219(1):204-13. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.04.033. Epub 2014 May 10.


Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness; rather it is a distinct entity representing wellness. Models of wellbeing have been proposed that emphasize components of subjective wellbeing, psychological wellbeing, or a combination of both. A new 26-item scale of wellbeing (COMPAS-W) was developed in a cohort of 1669 healthy adult twins (18-61 years). The scale was derived using factor analysis of multiple scales of complementary constructs and confirmed using tests of reliability and convergent validity. Bivariate genetic modeling confirmed its heritability. From an original 89 items we identified six independent subcomponents that contributed to wellbeing. The COMPAS-W scale and its subcomponents showed construct validity against psychological and physical health behaviors, high internal consistency (average r=0.71, Wellbeing r=0.84), and 12-month test-retest reliability (average r=0.62, Wellbeing r=0.82). There was a moderate contribution of genetics to total Wellbeing (heritability h(2)=48%) and its subcomponents: Composure (h(2)=24%), Own-worth (h(2)=42%), Mastery (h(2)=40%), Positivity (h(2)=42%), Achievement (h(2)=32%) and Satisfaction (h(2)=43%). Multivariate genetic modeling indicated genetic variance was correlated across the scales, suggesting common genetic factors contributed to Wellbeing and its subcomponents. The COMPAS-W scale provides a validated indicator of wellbeing and offers a new tool to quantify mental health.

Keywords: ERQ; Happiness; NEO-FFI; Resilience; SWLS; TWIN-E; WHOQOL.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*