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Internationally there is a growing interest in the mental wellbeing of young people. However, it is unclear whether mental wellbeing is best conceptualized as a general wellbeing factor or a multidimensional construct. This paper investigated whether mental wellbeing, measured by the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (MHC-SF), is best represented by: (1) a single-factor general model; (2) a three-factor multidimensional model or (3) a combination of both (bifactor model). 2220 young Australians aged between 16 and 25 years completed an online survey including the MHC-SF and a range of other wellbeing and mental ill-health measures. Exploratory factor analysis supported a bifactor solution, comprised of a general wellbeing factor, and specific group factors of psychological, social and emotional wellbeing. Confirmatory factor analysis indicated that the bifactor model had a better fit than competing single and three-factor models. The MHC-SF total score was more strongly associated with other wellbeing and mental ill-health measures than the social, emotional or psychological subscale scores. Findings indicate that the mental wellbeing of young people is best conceptualized as an overarching latent construct (general wellbeing) to which emotional, social and psychological domains contribute. The MHC-SF total score is a valid and reliable measure of this general wellbeing factor.

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Journal Article

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