Measurement invariance properties and external construct validity of the short Warwick-Edinburgh mental wellbeing scale in a large national sample of secondary school students in Wales
PURPOSE:The study of mental wellbeing requires reliable, valid, and practical measurement tools. One of the most widely used measures of mental wellbeing is the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS). Our aim was to examine the psychometric properties of SWEMWBS (a brief seven-item version) in a 'real-world' population sample of young people. METHODS:We used data from the 2017 School Health Research Network Student Health and Wellbeing Survey, completed by 103,971 students in years 7 to 11 from 193 secondary schools in Wales. We first estimated polychoric correlation matrices for the whole sample and by school year, and undertook a principal components analysis to check for configural invariance. Subsequently, we used a multiple-groups structural equation model with successively greater constraints to test measurement invariance. To examine external construct validity, we calculated correlations between the SWEMWBS score and four covariates: life satisfaction, somatisation, school pressure and bullying victimisation. RESULTS:Parallel analysis suggested that extraction of one factor was appropriate both overall and in each year group. Inspection of standardised loadings suggested that four items had progressively stronger correlations with the factor as students are older, but change in fit indices between models suggested that loadings and thresholds, but not residual variances, were invariant by age group. SWEMWBS scores were moderately correlated with measures of life satisfaction and somatisation, and weakly to moderately correlated with school pressure and bullying victimisation. CONCLUSIONS:This study adds to the growing evidence that SWEMWBS is appropriate for measuring mental wellbeing in young people and suggests that SWEMWBS is appropriate for tracking the development of wellbeing across adolescence.