The Science behind the MHQ

The Science behind the MHQ

The MHQ was developed to provide a standardized and comprehensive profile of mental health and wellbeing with research, clinical and population-based applications. It is based on a comprehensive coding and review of 126 mental health assessment tools, and addresses a number of challenges that currently exist in the field.

Challenge #1

Mental health assessment tools are highly inconsistent

Existing mental health assessment tools have been shown to be highly heterogeneous and inconsistent in the set of symptoms that they assess for any particular disorder. Tools designed to provide a cross-disorder perspective also fail to provide a complete and consistent picture of symptoms (Newson, Hunter & Thiagarajan, Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2020).

This creates confusion in diagnostic outcomes and hinders the development of effective interventions and treatments.

The MHQ approach: The MHQ includes all semantically distinct symptom categories across disorders to provide a complete and standardized profile.

Mental Health Million Project

Challenge #2

Mental health disorders are theoretically defined

Mental health assessment is built around clinical classification systems of psychiatric disorders (e.g. DSM or ICD) that are based on a theoretical constellation of symptoms rather than an understanding of underlying biology.

This definition of disorders introduces ambiguity in terms of patient diagnosis, especially since symptomatic experience often does not fit neatly into any one disorder category.

The consequence is that two individuals displaying vastly different constellations of symptoms can potentially be given the same diagnostic label, often leading to poor outcomes.

The MHQ approach: The MHQ isn’t tied to any disorder-based classification system but rather provides an unbiased comprehensive symptom profile that maps to six broad categories of mental function. It can also be mapped to the DSM.

Challenge #3

Mental health tools are negatively biased

The clinical heritage of mental health assessment means that existing tools focus on negative symptoms and dysfunction and disregard abilities and mental assets that inform wellbeing. However, the general population falls along a continuum ranging from severe dysfunction to thriving. Furthermore, many mental health “symptoms” such as sadness, anxiety and risk-taking are also elements of normal mental functioning. This one-sided perspective presents a challenge to the advancement of our understanding of the spectrum of mental wellbeing and the borders between “normal” mental health and clinical disorder.

The MHQ approach: The MHQ considers the spectrum of negative symptoms, assets and abilities to provide a view of the continuum of mental wellbeing from clinical dysfunction to thriving.


How we developed the MHQ

Evaluation of assessment tools across 10 different mental health disorders

This included depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, addiction, schizophrenia, ASD and eating disorder.

Analysis of over 10,000 questions across 126 assessment tools

This semantic coding of questions resulted in 170 individual symptoms across all disorders.

Synthesis of symptoms into 47 elements of mental wellbeing

These elements were extended with aspects from RDoC and Dementia and collectively reorganized into 47 categories of both negative symptoms and positive assets.

Read further details about the development and scoring of the MHQ here

MHQ questions

Respondents rate the 47 elements of mental wellbeing on a 9 point scale based on their current perception. Questions designed to collect demographic, experience and momentary information are also included to provide insights into the life context and situation of the respondent.

Mental Health Assessment

MHQ scoring algorithm

A composite mental wellbeing score, or MHQ, is provided to respondents at the end of the assessment. This score is not a simple averaging of the responses but uses a proprietary algorithm that rescales and weights each answer differently depending on the consequences of the symptom or function being assessed.

MHQ report

A more detailed report of mental wellbeing is generated automatically and is optionally available to respondents via email. This report provides subscores on 6 dimensions of mental health along with explanations and recommendations. Each dimensions represents a cluster of interrelated symptoms.

MHQ Assessment

The six dimensions of mental health in the MHQ

Mood and Outlook

Mood and Outlook: Your ability to manage and regulate your emotions effectively and to have a constructive or optimistic outlook for the future.

Social Self

Social Self: How you interact with, relate to and see yourself with respect to others.

Drive and Motivation

Drive and Motivation: Your ability to work towards achieving your desired goals and to initiate, persevere and complete activities in your daily life.


Cognition: Your ability to perform basic cognitive functions, make sense of complex sets of events and situations and display a longer-term perspective in your thoughts and behavior.

Adaptability & Resilience: Your ability to shift your behaviour and outlook in response to changing circumstances and cope with the challenges and setbacks that you encounter.

Mind-Body Connection: The regulation of the balance between your mind and body.