Mental health research studies are conducted across a vast range of cultures, populations and academic disciplines. To identify patterns in mental health, researchers use questionnaires (known as tools), which are designed for asking people about their symptoms, experiences, demographics and daily functioning. Ideally, the responses can then be combined and compared between studies to answer crucial questions, such as which intervention is the most effective for a given mental health condition, and how outcomes vary across different populations.

How is progress being held back?

Currently, mental health research data is extremely fragmented. For example, there are currently more than 280 different tools for measuring depression alone, with each adopting a different methodology. This fragmentation prevents researchers from comparing results between studies, and ultimately holds back the development of new treatments and interventions for people living with mental health issues.

Common measures will unlock new, life-saving insights

Common measures are tools that a broad community agrees to use in order to ensure that they are measuring the same thing. By agreeing on common measures, we can communicate, compare and combine results from a wide range of studies to make new discoveries. In October 2020, the IAMHRF established a community of mental health research funders, medical journals and data measurement experts committed to adopting common measures in mental health science. The initiative is overseen by a governance board, currently composed of a core set of funders, the IAMHRF and two journals. It is co-chaired by Wellcome and the National Institute of Mental Health and draws on the expertise of an international expert advisory group.

Our ambition

Given the fragmented landscape of mental health data, there is a critical need to take pragmatic action to make mental health research easier to compare, communicate, and interpret.

The fundamental mission of the Common Measures in Mental Health Science initiative is to ensure that research leads to tangible improvements in the lives of people who experience mental health issues. You can read the strategic papers outlining the history and ambition of the initiative in The Lancet Psychiatry and JAMA Psychiatry.

We aim to find informative measures that are accessible worldwide

The immediate objective of the initiative is to evaluate the strengths and limitations of an initial set of selected measures, adopted by the governance board. Consultations on the measures have been held with measurement experts working in a diverse range of research and cultural contexts. In addition to continuous consultations with experts worldwide, dedicated resources will be deployed to support psychometric research to further this objective.

In the long term, we aim to identify and adopt robust measures that can be applied to many mental health research settings – inspired by successful common measures in other fields (e.g., the blood sugar level test for diabetes, or the five-year-survival measure in oncology). Common measures in mental health, as in other fields, should be easy to administer, relevant, highly informative and accessible anywhere in the world. Our goal is not to identify perfect measures, but instead to identify low-burden, low-cost and high-information standalone tools that can produce meaningful information in the widest of possible contexts.

Once targeted research has provided insights into the use, accessibility, cultural translatability and acceptability of the selected measures, and measurement experts will have provided further input on their strengths and weaknesses, the findings will be summarized and published in a consolidated report. In the interim, summary notes of the CMA’s discussions around the strengths and weaknesses of the common measures, can be found here.

Governance Board


  • Grand Challenges Canada
  • Medical Research Council
  • Movember
  • MQ Mental Health Research
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • Wellcome


  • JAMA Psychiatry
  • Nature Mental Health
  • The Lancet Psychiatry

Expert Advisory Board

  • Deanna M. Barch, PhD
    Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry, Departments of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Psychiatry, and Radiology, Washington University
  • Judy Bass, PhD MPH
    Associate Professor of Global Mental Health, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
  • Phil Batterham, PhD MPH
    Professor, Centre for Mental Health Research, Australian National University
  • Robert M. Bilder, PhD
    Tennenbaum Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology, Jane & Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, UCLA
  • Greg Rhee, PhD, FACE
    Associate Professor; Director, Mood Disorders and Aging-related Research Program (MDARP), Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Connecticut School of Medicine
  • Felix Fischer, PD Dr. rer. nat.
    Health Outcomes and Psychometrics Research Group Leader, Department for Psychosomatic Medicine, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • Lilian A. Ghandour, PhD, MPH
    Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, American University of Beirut
  • Nev Jones, PhD
    Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Pittsburgh
  • Kassahun Habtamu, PhD
    Associate Professor in Psychological Measurement and Mental Health Epidemiology Head, School of Psychology, Addis Ababa University
  • Antonio A. Morgan-López, PhD
    Fellow in Quantitative Psychology, RTI International
  • Praveetha Patalay, PhD (maternity leave)
    Associate Professor, Centre for Longitudinal Studies and MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, University College London
  • Yuan-Pang Wang, MD PhD MSc
    Senior Researcher, Department of Psychiatry, University of Sao Paulo Medical School
  • David Ndetei, PhD, MBChB, MRCPsych, FRCPsych, DSc
    Professor of Psychiatry, University of Nairobi
    Founding Director, Africa Mental Health Research and Training Foundation, Kenya
  • Karen G. Martinez-Gonzalez, MD
    Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Puerto Rico

Frequently asked questions

For everyone

How are the measures chosen?

The Advisory Group, composed of mental health data measurement experts from around the world, is responsible for identifying, reviewing and recommending common measures. We understand that there is no perfect measure and instead look for measures that are well-established, freely available, and transferable to many different geographical and social contexts. The initial measures are consistent with those recommended by the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM).

Will the measures be changed or updated in the future?

Absolutely. We are committed to reviewing and updating the agreed measures dynamically based on new evidence and the expert advice of our Advisory Group. The initial measures are certainly not a new ‘gold-standard’, neither are they intended as a permanent fixture, and we will review them frequently. To support this, funders within our community will actively commission mental health measurement research to evaluate the validity and cross-context appropriateness of measurement tools.

Which measures have been agreed on?

The initial agreement includes seven measures, which vary in length from individual demographics questions to longer assessments.


Measures of depression and anxiety

  • PHQ-9 (adults)
  • GAD-7 (adults)
  • RCADS-25 (children and adolescents)


  • WHODAS 2.0 (adults)

Crosscutting assessments

  • DSM-5


  • Age
  • Sex at Birth

More detail on the Expert Advisory Board's discussions can be found in these anonymised notes: PHQ-9, GAD-7, RCADS-25, WHODAS.

Where can I find more information on licensing and foreign translations of the measures?

Further information about these measures, including licensing information and foreign translations, can be found at:

More information about the Common Measures initiative can be found on the NIMH website.

For people with lived experience

How will common measures benefit people living with mental health issues?

When data cannot be easily compared or combined, it is more difficult to develop better interventions, treatments, care and prevention strategies. Common measures create a bridge between studies, helping accelerate progress in research that leads to tangible improvements in the lives of people experiencing mental health issues.

Is the process inclusive?

Mental health research and outcomes are currently extremely unequitable, and our community feels a strong responsibility to help level the playing field. We are actively involving experts from countries throughout the world, around 40% of whom have direct lived experience of mental health issues. The priorities and needs of people living with mental health issues are central to the initiative. We also strive to ensure that researchers in low-income settings can equally apply the measures to their research and funding applications.

For researchers

What impact will this agreement have on researchers?

As well as making research easier to communicate and compare, common measures have various tangible benefits for researchers. For example, they can increase the impact of research outputs by allowing for secondary usage and collaboration. By enabling the integration of larger samples of data, common measures also lead to findings with greater generalisability, and allow analysis of population differences. They also enable researchers to gain faster approval of grants and manuscripts from funders and journal editors.

Can I use a scale or measure that isn’t listed here?

Absolutely. We strongly encourage you to supplement the measures with other data collection tools, such as those that have been validated in a specific population, or those that capture additional symptoms. Precisely which measures are relevant for a given study will be agreed at the moment of funding.

How will you ensure that the measures are transferable to different contexts?

Our community believes that common measures must be globally appropriate, and is committed to assessing and improving the transferability of measures. The data measurement experts in the Advisory Group will play a central role in this process. To further support this, funders including the Wellcome Trust have committed to funding research investigating measurement validity in global contexts.

How can I get involved?

After over 150 scientists applied to join our Advisory Group in February 2021, we assembled a Community of Practice, an additional, larger group of specialists in mental health data measurement that we consult. In the future, we plan to create a rolling application process to join the Expert Bank.

For clinicians

What impact will the agreement have on clinicians?

Common measures aid the interpretation of new research findings by allowing comparison of results from one study to those from other studies. This makes the clinical implications of the results much clearer without the need to translate measures.

Should I use these measures in clinical work?

The common measures approach is designed for research, rather than to advise clinical use. For advice on measures for use in patient care, please visit the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM).

If you have feedback on the Common Measures initiative, please contact us at