Estimating measurement equivalence of the 12-item General Health Questionnaire across ethnic groups in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

September 9, 2021



This study investigates the extent to which the GHQ-12 exhibits configural, metric and scalar invariance across six ethnic groups in Britain and Northern Ireland, using the UK Household Longitudinal Study (N = 35 410).

A confirmatory factor analysis was carried out on a white British group in order to establish an adequate measurement model. Secondly, a multi-group confirmatory factor analysis was conducted in order to assess measurement invariance. A sensitivity analysis comparing summated and latent means across groups was carried out. Finally, revised estimates of scale reliability were derived using two different methods.

A one-factor model including correlated error terms on the negatively phrased items showed superior fit in all ethnic groups. Tests for equal factor loadings and intercepts also showed adequate fit demonstrating metric and scalar invariance. Latent and summated scale estimates of mean group differences were similar for all groups. Scale reliability using McDonald's ω is lower than when using the more conventional Cronbach's α. Reliability across groups is reasonably consistent.

We find that the GHQ-12 does not display obvious bias in regard to ethnic groups in the UK and that valid comparisons across these groups can be made for the purposes of population research. Caution is needed when using as a screening tool for individuals.

Published in

Psychological Medicine






Open Access

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press



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