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Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scales

Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scales

Impact on Mental Health Policy and Practice

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scales (WEMWBS) were created within Warwick Medical School (WMS) to address a gap in measures suitable for evaluation in the new discipline of public mental health. The WEMWBS are enabling a change in culture by allowing governments, public, private and voluntary sector organisations and services to evaluate approaches that address positive mental health and its impact on productivity, physical health and social wellbeing.

The challenge

Understanding of mental wellbeing among public health professionals and policy makers together with the role it could play in promoting and protecting health was constrained in the late twentieth century by lack of appealing, robust measurement scales. Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown demonstrated how mental wellbeing is central to public health, playing a key role in socially determined health inequalities, and showed that a lack of suitable measures was limiting both research and practice.

Our approach

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scales (WEMWBS) were commissioned between 2005 and 2010 by the Scottish Government, following Stewart-Brown’s advice on public mental health in general and the need for such a scale in particular. With Professor Stephen Platt (University of Edinburgh and NHS Health Scotland), she was commissioned to lead a team to develop a new measure of mental wellbeing, achieving key outcomes and services:

  • WEMWBS, as valid, reliable, sensitive, popular and effective measures of mental wellbeing.

  • A process for licensing the scales which enables their free use by publicly funded services, third sector/voluntary organisations and Higher Education Institutes via a dedicated website.

  • User guides, workbooks and translations of the scales, available to all users once they have registered for a licence.

  • Enhanced understanding of the importance of mental wellbeing in policy and practice- based evidence for promoting mental wellbeing.

Our impact

WMS continues to support use of these positively orientated scales in the UK and currently in over 50 countries worldwide. Their reach and penetration is evident with over 11,000 registrations for use. An average of 350+ licences are issued monthly across higher education, education, health, community/voluntary, local authority and commercial sectors in the UK and abroad. Inclusion of the scales in large national and international surveys have enabled international comparisons and national benchmarking. Their use in a myriad of evaluation studies has provided a basis for on-going policy and practice development. WEWMBS are recommended as the go-to method for measuring mental wellbeing in the UK, by the UK Faculty of Public Health and Scottish, Welsh and English governments. The use of WEMWBS has enabled providers in different sectors to show the value of workplace, community and school based programmes, as well as interventions like social prescribing, recovery colleges, physical activity, arts for health programmes and provision of green spaces.

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