Measuring mental wellbeing

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS) is a scale of 14 positively worded items, with five response categories, for assessing a population´s mental wellbeing. Warwick and Edinburgh Universities were commissioned to develop it in 2006. Find out about how it was developed and how it´s being used here.

Assessing the mental wellbeing (positive mental health) of the population requires validated scales that reflect current concepts of mental wellbeing. The adult mental health indicators work highlighted the fact that there is a need for such scales which capture current thinking and which are validated for use in Scotland, and elsewhere in the UK.

Researchers at Warwick and Edinburgh Universities were commissioned to validate (for the UK) Affectometer 2, a scale previously identified as promising for assessing population mental wellbeing, and to develop a revised and shortened scale, The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS). WEMWBS is a 14 item scale which covers both hedonic and eudaimonic perspectives. Initial validation using student populations was followed up by the inclusion of WEMWBS in two national Scottish surveys (2006 September wave of the Health Education Population Survey (HEPS) and the 2006 Well? What do you think survey?). Data analyses showed that WEMWBS performed equally well in the general population as in student groups.

Information on this research and WEMWBS is contained in the following:

Further psychometric analysis tested the internal construct validity of WEMWBS from the perspective of the Rasch measurement model. This indicated that a 7-item version, the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (SWEMWBS), provides a better fit to the Rasch model. This is reported in an article in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes journal HQLO 2009 Volume 7 issue 15.

To date sensitivity to change has been reported in one study Parenting Early Intervention Pathfinders (external link). This study administered WEMWBS to over 1000 parents before and after attendance at a parenting programme. The mean WEMWBS score changed from 43.5 to 50.6. This represents an effect size of 0.71 which is considered to be a large change.


WEMWBS is now included in the core module of the annual Scottish Health Survey (external link) (from 2008) and is also being widely used throughout the UK and beyond. To assess the availability of sub-national WEMWBS data from the Scottish Health Survey see Scottish Health Survey Analysis by Local Authority or Health Board (Word document) (external link).

WEMWBS is being used for one of the Scottish Government´s 45 National indicators (external link) which will track progress towards achievement of the national outcomes and overall purpose. Other examples of the use of WEMWBS are provided in the user guide below.

Further information on the current use of WEMWBS, research and development is available at a new Warwick University WEMWBS webpage (external link).

How to use WEMWBS

A user guide for WEMWBS (Version 2, May 2015) is available to help you and for those wanting to evaluate the impact of their work on participants´ mental well-being, a WEMWBS practitioner-based user guide is available. 

We welcome the use of WEMWBS (and SWEMWBS). It is free to use but is copyrighted to NHS Health Scotland and the Universities of Warwick and Edinburgh. Permission and registration are required for use. Should you decide to use WEMWBS (or SWEMWBS), you will need to register your use by completing an online registration form on the Warwick University site for WEMWBS (external link). Once submitted you will receive an email granting permission to use the scale.

If the scale is reproduced, it must include the copyright statement which appears with it and no changes to its wording, response categories or layout must be made. Any report regarding use of WEMWBS (or SWEMWBS) also needs to include the following text:
"The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale was funded by the Scottish Executive National Programme for improving mental health and well-being, commissioned by NHS Health Scotland, developed by the University of Warwick and the University of Edinburgh, and is jointly owned by NHS Health Scotland, the University of Warwick and the University of Edinburgh."

Translation into other languages and using translated versions

Efforts to develop versions of (S)WEMWBS in languages other than English, for use in non-English speaking countries and with UK respondents who do not have English as their first language or who do not feel confident in their use of English are welcomed. In the first instance, enquiry should be made to Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown at the University of Warwick, in order to ascertain whether an approved non-English version is available. If it is, we will provide a copy. If a version in the required language is not available and you wish to develop a translated scale, we encourage you to do so.

A translation agreement document sets out the terms and conditions relating to the translation of (S)WEMWBS, and the use of translated versions. If you translate and/or use a translated version of (S)WEMWBS, and/or provide a translated version of (S)WEMWBS to others you will be considered to have accepted the terms and conditions in this document. Any translation of (S)WEMWBS and any use of a translated version of (S)WEMWBS that does not comply with these terms and conditions may result in all permissions given being revoked. This document also provides standard guidance/guidelines on appropriate tranlsation methodology which need to be followed.

Validation of WEMWBS with secondary school aged children

NHS Health Scotland commissioned Warwick and Edinburgh Universities to test the suitability of using WEMWBS with children aged 13 to 16. This work, the WAVES project, was carried out in 6 schools in Scotland and England between March 2008 and October 2009.

The main recommendation from the WAVES Project report is that WEMWBS is suitable for use at a population level to measure mental wellbeing in teenagers amongst those aged 13 years and over. It is safe to use in samples of over 100 people. In addition to the WAVES Project report, the validation research is also published in a BMC Public Health journal article BMC Public Health 2011 11 487.

The Scottish Adolescents Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) (external link) included WEMWBS in 2010 providing data on the mental wellbeing of S2 and S4 school children (mainly ages 13 and 15 years). WEMWBS will also be included in the self-completion booklet for children aged 13 to 15 years of the Scottish Health Survey from 2012.

Updated 7 April 2015

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