Half Full or Half Empty: The Measurement of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Emerging Australian Adults

Emmelin Teng, Anthony Venning, Helen Winefield, Shona Crabb


Narrow approaches to the conceptualisation and measurement of ‘mental health’ are regularly but inconsistently adopted in research and practice. For example, an exclusive focus on the identification of mental illness or mental wellbeing runs the risk of failing to detect individuals with low or high levels of the other, and does nothing to represent an individual’s level of complete mental health (i.e., taking both mental wellbeing and illness into account). The current study compared three approaches to the measurement of mental health regularly applied in the literature - an exclusive mental wellbeing / an exclusive mental illness / and a complete mental health approach – to determine if they produce similar outcomes. South Australian emerging adults were recruited (N=117; M=24.4 years, SD=0.75) and categorised into four mental health groups according to the Complete State Model (CSM; Keyes & Lopez, 2002) of mental health: flourishing (complete mental health), languishing or struggling (incomplete mental health or illness), or floundering (complete mental illness) and categories were compared. Results showed that the ‘mental health’ of the sample differed depending on the measurement approach used, and lend support to a complete mental health approach to better inform, develop, and target health promotion strategies.


mental wellbeing; mental health; mental illness; measurement; young adult

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13165/SIIW-15-1-1-01


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