• carer burden;
  • clinical and social outcomes;
  • psychometrics

Objective:  Community-based care for mental disorders places considerable burden on families and carers. Measuring their experiences has become a priority, but there is no consensus on appropriate instruments. We aimed to review instruments carers consider relevant to their needs and assess evidence for their use.

Method:  A literature search was conducted for outcome measures used with mental health carers. Identified instruments were assessed for their relevance to the outcomes identified by carers and their psychometric properties.

Results:  Three hundred and ninety two published articles referring to 241 outcome measures were identified, 64 of which were eligible for review (used in three or more studies). Twenty-six instruments had good psychometric properties; they measured (i) carers’ well-being, (ii) the experience of caregiving and (iii) carers’ needs for professional support.

Conclusion:  Measures exist which have been used to assess the most salient aspects of carer outcome in mental health. All require further work to establish their psychometric properties fully.