The UK is home to some of the most well-known longitudinal studies, and these are hugely rich data sources. These studies have continuously collected mental health data, sowing the seeds for fine mental health research, which enables us to learn and gain understanding of such an important topic.
Maximising the uptake of existing mental health measures
The Catalogue of Mental Health Measures is a platform designed to improve the discoverability of mental health data and facilitate research by providing information about measures of mental health and wellbeing collected by UK longitudinal and cohort studies. The Catalogue currently includes 51 ongoing longitudinal studies, covering a variety of mental health topics from 9 decades of data collection.
The Catalogue is also a part of DATAMIND, a Health Data Research (HDR) UK hub. The hub provides a wide range of mental health data sources and enables coordinated research. DATAMIND and the Catalogue are part of a consortium aiming to facilitate mental health research and maximise the uptake of available data.
The Catalogue displays detailed information about each study including a description of the aims and sample, as well as the instruments used. It also consists of fine-grained detail about each measure, when it was used, the response scale, focus, and informant. Recently, the Catalogue has expanded to include physical health measures which will support research on the links between mental and physical health.
The level of detail for each measure, and large number of studies on the Catalogue allows users to compare data from different studies across time, enabling harmonisation and cross-cohort research.
Catalogue users can easily access the search engine to look for specific studies, mental health topics, or instruments. Identifying studies with specific sample characteristics, related measures, or complementary data is made easier by using the various filters available. Information from each study is presented on a searchable timeline, providing a clear overview of the measures collected over time. Sprouts will grow from the timeline to indicate that measures have been collected at different timepoints.
My experience working on the Catalogue
Over the past 6 months, I have been working on the Catalogue as an undergraduate placement student. I have mostly worked on reviewing studies and adding them to the Catalogue. After establishing the aims of a study, we begin an in-depth review of their documentation. We review every questionnaire and interview schedule, carefully selecting the mental health and wellbeing measures. Once we have gathered all the relevant information, and the study team have verified the accuracy and completeness of our review, the study can go live on the Catalogue. Lots of study teams have been very excited to have their study on the Catalogue!
As soon as I started, I could see how useful the Catalogue is, and how it can aid mental health research. It does this by providing easy access to information about mental health and wellbeing measures in longitudinal studies, to maximise the uptake of existing data. Researchers can therefore use the Catalogue to identify datasets that include these measures; plan their own future data collections; and plan harmonisation studies. Lots of work goes into making longitudinal mental health data discoverable and accessible, but it is very much worth it.
Many studies focus on child and adolescent mental health, including Gemini and REACH, which I have worked on. I have really enjoyed reviewing these studies, discovering new measures of mental health, and reading up on the aims and objectives. Completing these reviews has inspired me to read papers on each study and see what they had found too, which was super interesting! Working on and using the Catalogue has definitely opened my eyes to the effort that goes into longitudinal research, and the importance of these studies.
Something that has surprised me since working on the Catalogue is how rich UK longitudinal studies are in mental health data, even as far back as the 1950s. In studies where mental health is not the focus, mental health measures have still been used consistently. I have seen that the inclusion of these measures allows for many different outcomes, contributing to our understanding of mental health problems. I never expected there to have been so many relevant measures, but this has highlighted to me the value of utilising existing data.
The future of the Catalogue
After my placement comes to an end, I have no doubt I will continue to use the Catalogue. For instance, I think it will be an invaluable resource for the relevant modules in my final year of university. It is also a particularly useful resource for early career researchers and students wanting to discover longitudinal mental health data.
The Catalogue is continuously expanding as we add more studies and soon, personality and temperament measures, to facilitate research on the connections between personality and mental health. The Catalogue aims to continue assisting cohort and longitudinal studies in sowing the seeds for rich mental health research, encouraging the uptake of valuable existing data.
Author: Georgia Andrews (Cardiff University)
About the author:
Georgia is an undergraduate psychology student at Cardiff University, currently undertaking her placement year at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre, King’s College London. She has been working on the Catalogue of Mental Health Measures since September 2021 and will continue doing so until summer 2022.