How well does a wellbeing measure predict psychiatric ‘caseness’ as well as suicide risk and self-harm in adolescents?

Gordon Parker*, Isabelle Granville Smith, Amelia Paterson, Mia Romano, Dusan Hadzi-Pavlovic, Tahlia Ricciardi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Screening for psychiatric disorders may be hampered by traditional measures that increase participant burden and elicit negative responses via denial and social desirability biases. This study examined the utility of a wellbeing measure to identify psychopathology and suicide risk in adolescent participants. 1,579 students from Sydney schools participated in a survey which assessed wellbeing using the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) as well as psychiatric disorders and suicide risk. Results showed that low scores on the SWLS discriminated adolescents who had experienced a psychiatric condition or suicidality from those not so assigned. Specifically, students with no psychiatric diagnosis yielded a mean SWLS score of 28.0 while for those assigned a diagnosis, mean scores ranged from 19.4–3.0 across the various psychiatric conditions. Students who reported any suicidal ideation yielded a mean SWLS score of 22.7, and those with a current suicidal plan yielded a mean score of 17.7. We derived SWLS cut-off scores for predicting psychiatric caseness and suicidality but established that they had low positive predictive power. The SWLS therefore appears to provide a limited proxy measure of the chance of a psychiatric disorder or psychological distress, and might usefully complement more direct measures of such states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-327
Number of pages5
JournalPsychiatry Research
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • wellbeing measures
  • SWLS
  • psychiatric diagnosis
  • adolescent wellbeing
  • suicide risk


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