Quality of Life Research

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 205–215 | Cite as

Assessing psychological well-being: self-report instruments for the NIH Toolbox

  • John M. SalsmanEmail author
  • Jin-Shei Lai
  • Hugh C. Hendrie
  • Zeeshan Butt
  • Nicholas Zill
  • Paul A. Pilkonis
  • Christopher Peterson
  • Catherine M. Stoney
  • Pim Brouwers
  • David Cella



Psychological well-being (PWB) has a significant relationship with physical and mental health. As a part of the NIH Toolbox for the Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function, we developed self-report item banks and short forms to assess PWB.

Study design and setting

Expert feedback and literature review informed the selection of PWB concepts and the development of item pools for positive affect, life satisfaction, and meaning and purpose. Items were tested with a community-dwelling US Internet panel sample of adults aged 18 and above (N = 552). Classical and item response theory (IRT) approaches were used to evaluate unidimensionality, fit of items to the overall measure, and calibrations of those items, including differential item function (DIF).


IRT-calibrated item banks were produced for positive affect (34 items), life satisfaction (16 items), and meaning and purpose (18 items). Their psychometric properties were supported based on the results of factor analysis, fit statistics, and DIF evaluation. All banks measured the concepts precisely (reliability ≥0.90) for more than 98 % of participants.


These adult scales and item banks for PWB provide the flexibility, efficiency, and precision necessary to promote future epidemiological, observational, and intervention research on the relationship of PWB with physical and mental health.


Psychological assessment Well-being Positive affect Life satisfaction Meaning 



This project was funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the Blueprint for Neuroscience Research and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health, under Contract No. HHS-N-260-2006-00007-C. Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by NIH grants KL2RR025740 from the National Center for Research Resources and 5K07CA158008-01A1 from the National Cancer Institute. The authors would like to thank the subdomain consultants, Felicia Huppert, Ph.D., Alice Carter, Ph.D., Marianne Brady, Ph.D., Dilip Jeste, MD, Colin Depp, Ph.D., and Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., and members of the NIH project team, Gitanjali Taneja, Ph.D., and Sarah Knox, Ph.D., who provided critical and constructive expertise during the development of the NIH Toolbox Emotion measurement battery.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Salsman
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  • Jin-Shei Lai
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Hugh C. Hendrie
    • 3
  • Zeeshan Butt
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Nicholas Zill
    • 6
  • Paul A. Pilkonis
    • 7
  • Christopher Peterson
    • 8
  • Catherine M. Stoney
    • 9
  • Pim Brouwers
    • 10
  • David Cella
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Medical Social SciencesNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer CenterNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Center for Aging ResearchIndiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  4. 4.Comprehensive Transplant CenterNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Center for Patient-Centered OutcomesNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  6. 6.Westat, Inc.RockvilleUSA
  7. 7.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA
  8. 8.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  9. 9.National Heart, Lung, and Blood InstituteNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  10. 10.Division of AIDS ResearchNational Institute of Mental HealthBethesdaUSA

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