Why Use Population-Based Surveys?
There are many benefits to using population-based health surveys in behavioral health research, community mental health assessments, and program planning. Not only does use of existing data save time and money, but these surveys use valid methods to produce reliable estimates that can be compared between groups, over time, and across studies. Several population-based surveys include diagnostic or screening tools to measure mental illness.
How Are They Used?
Population-based surveys that include measures of mental illness are used in several ways.
Development or testing of research hypotheses. Sample questions may include:
What Needs to be Considered?
Assessing mental illness is more complicated than collecting data on demographic characteristics such as age or gender. Thus, the strengths and limitations of each survey should be considered when choosing a public use data set. For example, surveys that have used diagnostic tools have more detailed disorder data, but are not repeated annually, unlike many large-scale surveys that use mental illness screening tools.
Which Diagnostic or Screening Tools are Included in Large-Scale Surveys?
Large population-based surveys use different measures of mental illness. Some are administered by trained mental health professionals, and others by trained lay professionals. Some of the measures yield a psychiatric diagnosis, while others screen for the presence of symptoms or diagnostic criteria. When deciding which population-based survey to use, it is important to know how each one diagnoses or screens for mental illness.
How to Decide Which Survey to Use?
We have identified large population-based surveys that include measures of mental illness.
For each survey, we provide:
· the parent agency and a link
· a brief description of the tool
· the name of the mental illness diagnostic or screening tool included in the survey
· a checklist of whether disability, employment, and physical health are included
· a link to an example of a publication that used the survey
· access to the site where the data and instructions for retrieval are housed