Background. In other branches of epidemiology, stratum specific likelihood ratios (SSLRs) have been found to be preferable to fixed best threshold approaches to screening instruments. This paper presents SSLRs of GHQ-12 and GHQ-28 and compares the SSLR method with the traditional optimal threshold approach.
Methods. Random effects meta-analysis and meta-regression were used to obtain pooled estimates of SSLRs of the two questionnaires for the 15 centres participating in the WHO study of Psychological Problems in General Health Care. We illustrated the use of SSLRs by applying them to random samples of patients from centres with different backgrounds.
Results. For developed and urban centres, the estimates of SSLRs were homogeneous for 10 out of 12 strata of the GHQ-12 and GHQ-28. For other centres, the overall results, which were heterogeneous for six out of 12 strata, were deemed the currently available best estimates. When we applied these results to centres with different prevalences of mental disorders and backgrounds, the estimates matched the actually observed closely. These examples showed how the SSLR approach is more informative than the traditional threshold approach.
Conclusions. Those working in developed urban settings can use the corresponding SSLRs with reasonable confidence. Those working in non-urban or developing areas may wish to use the overall results, while acknowledging that they must remain less certain until further research can explicate heterogeneity. These SSLRs have been incorporated into nomograms and spreadsheet programmes so that future researchers can swiftly derive the post-test probability for a patient or a group of patients from a pre-test probability and GHQ score.