Psychological distress

Information sheet 11 - Kessler Psychological Distress Scale– 6 items (K6)

Name of the instrument

Kessler Psychological Distress Scale

Abbreviation

K6

Number of items

6

Terms of use

Public domain. The source must be mentioned (Kessler et al., 2003).

Language

English, French

Data collection method

Self-report questionnaire, in hard copy, in person or by telephone.

Target population

Adolescents and adults

Interpretation of the results and thresholds

  • The items are ranked on a five-point scale. The maximum score is 24.
  • A score equal to or greater than 13 indicates the probability of a serious mental illness. A score below 13 indicates that a serious mental illness is unlikely.
  • The other thresholds differ from study to study but several use a score of 8 to 12 to indicate moderate distress. The results in the CCHS and the QPHS are presented by quintile.

Is the questionnaire available in the toolkit?

Yes, see Questionnaire 8

Other versions

The long version has 10 items (K10).

References

  • Furukawa, T. A., Kessler, R. C., Slade, T. and Andrews, G. (2003). The performance of the K6 and K10 screening scales for psychological distress in the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being. Psychological Medicine, 33(2), 357-362.
  • Kessler, R. C., Barker, P. R., Colpe, L. J., Epstein, J. F., Gfroerer, J. C., Hiripi, E., … Zaslavsky, A. M. (2003). Screening for serious mental illness in the general population. Archives of General Psychiatry, 60(2), 184-189. Consulted at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7101/40b8f5db8fd0701a9b21414fab442f59a617.pdf
  • Kessler, R. C., Green, J. G., Colpe, Mr. Chetboun J., Epstein, N. A., Gfroerer, J. C., Hiripi, Mr. Chetboun, … Zaslavsky, A. M. (2010). Screening for serious mental illness in the general population with the K6 screening scale: results from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) survey initiative. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 2, 4-22.
  • National Comorbidity Survey (undated). K10 and K6 Scales. Consulted at https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/ncs/k6_scales.php.

Last modified: 

January-12-21

How to cite: Canuel, M., Gosselin, P., Duhoux, A., Brunet, A., et Lesage, A. (2019). Post-Disaster Mental Health Impacts Surveillance Toolkit. Institut national de santé publique du Québec. Found at https://www.inspq.qc.ca/en/publications/2676(link is external).