Abstract

Background

The 10-item Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) is a short measure of non-specific psychological distress, which has been shown to be a sensitive screen for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for anxiety and mood disorders. The scale has yet to be validated as a measure of psychological distress for Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Data and methods

Using the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS), this study examined the psychometric properties of the K10 for First Nations people living off reserve, Métis, and Inuit aged 15 or older. The factor structure and internal consistency of the K10 were examined via confirmatory factor analysis and Cronbach’s alpha, respectively. Descriptive statistics by sex, education, household income, and age group were provided for the scale. K10 construct validity was further assessed by examining  associations with mental health variables in the 2012 APS: self-rated mental health, self-reported diagnosed mood and anxiety disorders, and self-reported suicidal ideation in the past 12 months.

Results

A unidimensional “Distress” model with correlated errors was a good fit to the data. Cronbach’s alpha values were satisfactory. K10 mean scores were positively skewed, with most respondents reporting few or no distress symptoms. Females and respondents with lower education and household income levels had significantly higher distress. Respondents aged 55 or older had significantly lower distress than their younger counterparts. K10 mean scores were significantly higher for respondents who reported poor mental health, a diagnosed mood disorder, a diagnosed anxiety disorder, or suicidal ideation in the past 12 months. Results were consistent across all three Aboriginal groups.

Interpretation

Based on the 2012 APS, the total score of the K10 appears to be psychometrically sound for use as a broad measure of non-specific psychological distress for First Nations people living off reserve, Métis, and Inuit.

Keywords

Anxiety, depression, First Nations people, indigenous health, Inuit, Métis, mental health, suicide

Findings

The 10-item Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) is a short measure of non-specific psychological distress. The K10 has been shown to be a sensitive screen for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) criteria for anxiety and mood disorders in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Japan. The K10 is frequently used in population health surveys, especially in situations where it is not feasible to include a long diagnostic interview to assess mental disorders. [Full Text]

Authors

Evelyne Bougie (Evelyne.Bougie@statcan.gc.ca), Rubab G. Arim, Dafna E. Kohen  and Leanne C. Findlay are with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada.

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What is already known on this subject?

  • The 10-item Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) is a short measure of non-specific psychological distress that is frequently used in population health surveys.
  • The K10 was incorporated as a mental health measure in the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS).
  • The K10 scale has not been validated as a measure of psychological distress for Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

What does this study add?

  • This is the first study to validate the K10 scale for First Nations people living off reserve, Métis, and Inuit in Canada.
  • The analysis supports the K10 as a psychometrically valid and reliable instrument to measure non-specific psychological distress among these three Aboriginal groups.

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