Clinical use of the Kessler psychological distress scales with culturally diverse groups

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Abstract

The Kessler 10 (K10) and embedded Kessler 6 (K6) was developed to screen for non-specific psychological distress and serious mental illness in mental health surveys of English-speaking populations, but has been adopted in Western and non-Western countries as a screening and outcome measure in primary care and mental health settings. This review examines whether the original K6/K10's validity for culturally diverse populations was established, and whether the cultural equivalence, and sensitivity to change of translated or culturally adapted K6/K10s, has been demonstrated with culturally diverse client groups. Evidence for the original K6/K10's validity for culturally diverse populations is limited. Questions about the conceptual and linguistic equivalence of translated/adapted K6/K10s arise from reports of changes in item connotation and differential item functioning. Evidence for structural equivalence is inconsistent, as is support for criterion equivalence, with the majority of studies compromising on accuracy in case prediction. Research demonstrating sensitivity to change with culturally diverse groups is lacking. Inconsistent evidence for the K6/K10's cultural appropriateness in clinical settings, and a lack of clinical norms for either majority or culturally diverse groups, indicate the importance of further research into the psychological distress construct with culturally diverse clients, and the need for caution in interpreting K6/K10 scores. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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