General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)

Screen psychological distress by answering the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). Take your first step towards wellness, and discover your health score!

By Matt Olivares on Jun 20, 2024.


Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) PDF Example
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What Is The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)?

The is a mental health instrument that was developed by David Goldberg, a British psychologist, in the 1970s. It was created to serve as a screening tool for patients to assess the level of their psychological distress and the current state of their well-being.

This assessment is, as its name states, a questionnaire! It only has twelve items, making it easy and quick to complete. These questions zoom in on a patient’s recent experiences that may result from mental health issues like depression, anxiety, stress, and more.

While the tool itself may not pinpoint the specific factors that contribute to the patient’s psychological distress, the patient’s answers will serve as the launching pad for further examination that may identify what is causing and contributing to their distress.

This questionnaire should not be used to diagnose a patient with specific mental illnesses. However, once the patient has already been officially diagnosed, this tool can monitor them to see if their psychological distress level has remained the same or gone down.

Printable General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)

Download this General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and assess your client’s psychological distress.

How to Use The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)

Boost your health assessment practices

There are two ways to administer this.

The most common way is just to hand them a copy of the questionnaire, and have them answer the questions independently to submit a fully-accomplished questionnaire.

The other way to administer the GHQ-12 is to treat it like an interview where you ask them all the questions listed and mention the four possible answers they can give.

Here are the twelve “Have you recently…” questions that they need to answer:

  • Been able to concentrate on what you’re doing?
  • Lost much sleep over worry?
  • Felt you were playing a useful part in things?
  • Felt capable of making decisions about things?
  • Felt constantly under strain?
  • Felt you couldn’t overcome your difficulties?
  • Been able to enjoy your normal day-to-day activities?
  • Been able to face up to your problems?
  • Been feeling unhappy and depressed?
  • Been losing confidence in yourself?
  • Been thinking of yourself as a worthless person?
  • Been feeling reasonably happy, all things considered?

Either way you administer this, the only thing your patient needs to do for the questionnaire is to pick one out of four possible answers per question based on what they believe applies to them in each question. These questions are usually the following or the inverse of them:

  • Not at all
  • No more than usual
  • Rather more than usual
  • Much more than usual

Tally the scores

Each item can score anything from 0-3. Each answer set per item is arranged by severity from left to right.

The first choice (the leftmost answer) is equivalent to 0, while the last choice (the rightmost answer) is equivalent to 3.

The maximum score is 36. There are no specific score ranges to refer to, but the higher the patient’s score is, the more likely it is that they are experiencing psychological distress and that its severity is high.

The best thing to do is to always refer to the patient’s answers. If their answers contribute to a high score, let’s say 30, then they are likely experiencing a severe level of psychological distress, which is a cause for concern.

Recommend the patient for further evaluation

Remember that this is not a diagnostic tool, so even if the scores indicate their psychological distress level is high, the best approach is to recommend them for further evaluation to properly assess their possible mental health condition and an official diagnosis.

Their answers can also become points for discussion in subsequent sessions. You can use those to get the patient to explain their answers for each question, and their explanations could paint a better picture of them that will help you make more informed decisions when doing a comprehensive examination of them.

General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) Example

Now that you know what will be asked of the patient when they look at the questionnaire and how scoring it is done, I bet you are telling yourself, “That’s easy enough to do!”

All that is left is for you to see what it looks like, so here is a fully-accomplished General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) sample.

Download this General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) Example (Sample) here:

General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) Example

If you like what you see in the example above and adding this questionnaire will help streamline and improve your mental health work, then request permission to use the official version from ePROVIDE. What we showed here is for demonstrative purposes only to give you an idea as to what you need to do and what the questionnaire would generally look like.

When Is The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) Typically Used?

The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) is often used during mental health consultations to assess the current psychological state of clients.

For the sake of example, let’s say you have a patient who has never been to a mental health appointment before, and you are the first mental health specialist to ever discuss their mental health in a clinical setting. Your goal is to get a good enough picture of the patient to determine how to conduct your sessions and treat them down the line.

To get a good picture of your patient, you will need them to provide information about how they have been feeling lately. Using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) as early as your first session with them is the best time since it asks general questions about the patient that may be elaborated on after they submit a fully-answered questionnaire. The screening stage of a patient is the first thing that needs to be done before making further examinations.

You may also use this when they are undergoing treatment so they can be monitored for changes in how they have been feeling (generally) and if their level of psychological distress has improved (hopefully the former!). Feel free to administer this questionnaire at intermittent intervals to evaluate clients' mental health periodically. Following this information, you can work towards more targeted treatment plans that consistently prioritize client wellbeing.

Who Normally Uses The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)?

The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) can be used by a wide variety of healthcare professionals who are highly trained in dealing with and treating people with mental health issues, like the following:

  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Counselors
  • (Mental health) therapists
  • Primary care physicians

So long as they are certified experts in dealing with psychological/mental health-related issues, they can definitely use this.

Psychometricians and researchers may also use this to assess the effectiveness and reliability of treatment plans, interventions, and even the tool itself.

However, if you come across this GHQ-12 from a non-healthcare background and wish to use it to track your mental health state, then that is also okay. Keep in mind that you may not be able to make the most of results compared to a mental health practitioner.

General health feedback

What Are The Benefits Of Using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)?

It’s quick and easy to use.

Healthcare practitioners may find this a nifty tool mainly because of its straightforward nature. The questionnaire is short and has general questions that can be answered with one answer among a set of four per item.

This makes it quick and easy to administer. It should take at most ten minutes to finish, even if each answer is given great thought.

It can help prevent psychological distress from getting worse by identifying it early.

Given that this is typically used during the first or any of the early sessions that professionals have with their patients, this tool can help professionals identify the level of psychological distress that their patients are experiencing early. Knowing how the patient is feeling at first can open up the discussion about what is causing their emotions. This could lead to identifying the factors that drive their distress. The more information you have, the more you are informed about conducting comprehensive examinations and creating treatment plans.

It can be used to monitor the patient and your treatment plan.

Let’s say your patient has been through your program's Getting to Know You phase. You were able to conduct a comprehensive assessment of them, which led to a diagnosis, which led to you developing and implementing a treatment plan for them. That’s great! But wouldn’t you like to know how the patient is doing post-treatment plan implementation?

You may use this questionnaire again to see if there have been any significant changes in your patient’s overall well-being and psychological distress. Hopefully, they are getting better, but if they are not, perhaps that is a sign that you need to evaluate your treatment plan and identify what is working and what is not.

Why Use Carepatron For Psychology/Mental Health Software?

If you specialize in dealing with and treating patients who have psychological/mental health-related problems, then you will definitely benefit from using Carepatron!

Our platform houses various worksheets, assessments, general treatment plan templates, and surveys that will help you streamline your work!

Now, given that General is in the questionnaire’s name, you might not think it’s enough to help you truly understand your patient, and we won’t argue with you on that! While it may be effective in some cases, it may not be in others. It depends on the patient you are handling. That’s why we recommend that you use our platform so you can access more tools that you can use alongside the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) so that you can make a more comprehensive assessment of your patient. Doing so should give you a more well-rounded perspective on what the patient is dealing with, which, in turn, will better inform your decisions on how to treat them.

Using our platform also gives you access to an excellent and highly secure storage system. Storing your clinical documents via our platform means you will store them in a HIPAA-compliant manner and create digital backups of your documents. Your documents will also become easily accessible wherever you are, anytime you want, on any capable device you might have so long as you can access the internet.

Convenience. Accessibility. Security. You get all three with Carepatron.

Health and wellbeing admin
I’m not a healthcare professional. May I use this to assess myself?
I’m not a healthcare professional. May I use this to assess myself?

Commonly asked questions

I’m not a healthcare professional. May I use this to assess myself?

You may definitely do that, but refrain from using it to self-diagnose because it is not a diagnostic tool. You should not make any decisions based on your results except by seeing a professional. If you get a high score after answering the questionnaire, please see an expert for a more comprehensive examination and an official diagnosis.

Given that this is a general questionnaire, is it trustworthy enough as a screening tool?

Yes and no.

Yes because the answers of your patient to these general questions still reflect what they are feeling and how terrible the level of their psychological distress is. While the possible answers for each question are set, you can have them expound on their responses during subsequent sessions.

No because, as you said, it is a general questionnaire, so this may not be enough to get all the necessary information.

Conclusively, it is best used alongside other (screening) tools to understand your patient better.

What is the difference between the GHQ-12 and the GHQ-28?

Given that it asks more questions, the GHQ-28 covers more ground because it looks at psychological and even somatic symptoms that might contribute to the patient’s psychological distress. This differs to the GHQ-12 which only has 12 questions pertaining to mental health. This makes the GHQ-12 great for quick snapshots of health, whereas the GHQ-28 provides insight into the bigger picture.

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