Background: The 5-item World Health Organization Well-Being Index (WHO-5) is among the most widely used questionnaires assessing subjective psychological well-being. Since its first publication in 1998, the WHO-5 has been translated into more than 30 languages and has been used in research studies all over the world. We now provide a systematic review of the literature on the WHO-5.
Methods: We conducted a systematic search for literature on the WHO-5 in PubMed and PsycINFO in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. In our review of the identified articles, we focused particularly on the following aspects: (1) the clinimetric validity of the WHO-5; (2) the responsiveness/sensitivity of the WHO-5 in controlled clinical trials; (3) the potential of the WHO-5 as a screening tool for depression, and (4) the applicability of the WHO-5 across study fields.
Results: A total of 213 articles met the predefined criteria for inclusion in the review. The review demonstrated that the WHO-5 has high clinimetric validity, can be used as an outcome measure balancing the wanted and unwanted effects of treatments, is a sensitive and specific screening tool for depression and its applicability across study fields is very high.
Conclusions: The WHO-5 is a short questionnaire consisting of 5 simple and non-invasive questions, which tap into the subjective well-being of the respondents. The scale has adequate validity both as a screening tool for depression and as an outcome measure in clinical trials and has been applied successfully across a wide range of study fields.