Open Access Research article

The psychometric properties of the subscales of the GHQ-28 in a multi-ethnic maternal sample: results from the Born in Bradford cohort

Stephanie L Prady1*, Jeremy NV Miles2, Kate E Pickett1, Lesley Fairley3, Karen Bloor1, Simon Gilbody1, Kathleen Kiernan4, Rachel Mann1 and John Wright3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK

2 RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, USA

3 Bradford Institute for Health Research, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Bradford, UK

4 Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York, York, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:55  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-55

Published: 15 February 2013



Poor maternal mental health can impact on children’s development and wellbeing; however, there is concern about the comparability of screening instruments administered to women of diverse ethnic origin.


We used confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to examine the subscale structure of the GHQ-28 in an ethnically diverse community cohort of pregnant women in the UK (N = 5,089). We defined five groups according to ethnicity and language of administration, and also conducted a CFA between four groups of 1,095 women who completed the GHQ-28 both during and after pregnancy.


After item reduction, 17 of the 28 items were considered to relate to the same four underlying concepts in each group; however, there was variation in the response to individual items by women of different ethnic origin and this rendered between group comparisons problematic. The EFA revealed that these measurement difficulties might be related to variation in the underlying concepts being measured by the factors.


We found little evidence to recommend the use of the GHQ-28 subscales in routine clinical or epidemiological assessment of maternal women in populations of diverse ethnicity.

Born in Bradford; Psychometric evaluation; Antenatal anxiety and depression; Postnatal anxiety and depression; Multi-ethnic; Ethnic minority