In 1982 the WHO European Regional Office initiated a European multicenter trial of two different insulin deliverance methods. One of the study objectives was to compare well-being and quality of life in connection with each treatment.
For this purpose a 28-item WHO Well-Being Questionnaire was developed to assess both positive and negative well-being. Further analysis identified ten items in the 28-item WHO questionnaire which belonged to an overall index of positive and negative well-being in a single uni-dimensional scale.
This resulted in the WHO (Ten) Well-Being. A subsequent examination of the WHO-Ten revealed that five of the items focused on being interested in things, while one item (being depressed) was indicative of negative well-being.
In a measure of positive quality of life it is important to avoid symptom-related language and to use only positively phrased questions. The previously mentioned five items covering being interested in things were collapsed to one: “My daily life has been filled with things that interest me” while the negatively phrased item was changed to the positively phrased: “I have felt cheerful and in good spirits”. This resulted in the WHO-5 Well-Being Index.
The WHO-5 was first presented by the WHO Regional Office in Europe at a 1998 WHO meeting in Stockholm as an element in the DEPCARE project on the measures of well-being in primary health care. Since this time the WHO-5 has been validated in a number of studies with regard to both clinical and psychometric validity.
Ref. Bech P. Clinical Psychometrics , Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, 2012