Setting the mental wellbeing scales

By David King - on 22/02/2016

David King discusses the importance and increasing popularity of the WEMWBS scale, but also looks to what remains to be understood to fully utilise it.

Despite major changes to the funding of social housing, many housing associations recognise the increasing importance of supporting the health and wellbeing of their residents. This is not just about furthering social aims. With an ageing population, welfare reform, and changes to public services, the sustainability of core activity like rent collection and maintenance are being brought into question. 

Whereas in the past, projects and services may have been directly funded by housing, there is now a greater need to work with other service providers. To do so, simple tools are needed to translate the variety of projects being run into a language that speaks to a variety of audiences. Our Value Calculator is being used throughout the housing sector and increasingly in wider civil society to this end, being favoured for it’s methodological consistency - having a wide range of outcomes that can be directly compared enables many different projects or services to cooperate. Alongside this, WEMWBS, the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS), has emerged as a favourite to measure a population’s mental health and explore gradual changes in wellbeing that the Value Calculator would not pick up (due to the binary valuation of answers.)

At a HACT event this week, it was easy to see why WEMWBS has become so widely used. The scale only uses positively worded items and covers a range of aspects of mental health on the shorter 7 point scale or longer 14 point scale. This makes it suitable for projects with social housing residents not comfortable answering more clinical questions about their health. As a ‘menu’ of measures of mental health, it can be used to evaluate early-stage projects where the outcome of interest might not be immediately obvious. 

However, comparing WEMWBS data to other metrics can be tricky. While it is a good scale for measuring mental health, it does not address physical health or wider wellbeing, and populations will respond to the scale differently. To do more with the data, HACT and Simetrica are conducting research to compare responses on the WEMWBS scale with a measure that addresses these variables: life satisfaction. This research would maintain the benefits of WEMWBS, whilst gaining greater understanding of how people respond to the scale.  Bringing HACT wellbeing-based research together with WEMWBS would be a massively positive step forward in understanding and valuing the full range of interventions by housing provides and others. 

HACT is currently looking for housing providers interested in getting involved in this research. If you’re interested, please contact for more details and to receive the project specification.

Wellbeing; WEMWBS; Social impact; impact

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