Insight
Mental Fitness

The science behind Fika’s proprietary Mental Fitness Scale and its predictive qualities

Dr Fran Longstaff
February 17, 2023
7
min read
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A person’s mental fitness is a reflection of the skills and capabilities they possess that enable them to effectively cope with life’s challenges and get the best of themselves (Robinson, Oades, Caputi, 2015)

Just like physical fitness is made up of different systems and structures, so is mental fitness - the 7 skills of mental fitness which include; confidence, positivity, focus, motivation, meaning, connection and stress management. 

A person’s mental fitness acts as a protective buffer to wellbeing decline, and also increases their capacity for performance.

At Fika we have validated our own proprietary mental fitness scale to quantify the role that mental fitness plays in these outcomes at an individual, team and organisational level. While also using it to inform our smart recommendation engine.

Our team of PhDs, researchers and product specialists have gone through a rigorous process to ensure that our mental fitness scale is not only a valid but reliable measure. 

The mental fitness scale consists of 21 questions answered on a 4-point likert scale (1 - 4). A total mental fitness score is calculated along with a score for each of the 7 skills of mental fitness. 

If you would like more detailed information about the development of the mental fitness scale please contact Dr Fran Longstaff (fran@fika.community). A shortened summary is provided below. 

Questionnaire item generation and refinement

To ensure that the different theoretical concepts underpinning mental fitness were measured we decided to have 3 questions per skill (21 items in total). Questions were refined and selected based on the following criteria:

  1. The items chosen successfully represented the breadth of the theoretical concepts underpinning each skill. For example, an individual’s ability to focus is a reflection of several processes (e.g. selective attention, focus maintenance). See list 1 for a summary of the concepts measured in the 7 subscales of the mental fitness scale.
  2. The items chosen were not at risk of floor or ceiling effects (e.g. really low or high scores). Means and standard deviations, and Z scores for skewness and kurtosis were used to assess this. In data collected with 215 participants, means for each of the individual items ranged between 2.45 - 2.87 and SDs ranged from 0.69 - 096. All items were found to show normal distributions without skewness or kurtosis. 
  3. The items chosen correlated well with other items in their subscale. Although we wanted to measure the breadth of the theoretical concepts underpinning mental fitness, we were also keen to ensure that there was a good level of consistency between the items in the subscales (e.g. the focus items correlated well together). Inter-item totals and cronbach alphas were used to do this.  In data collected with 215 participants, the total mental fitness scale was shown to have a high level of internal consistency, as demonstrated by a cronbach's alpha of α = 0.91. Cronbachs for each of the 7 skill subscales was found to range between 0.69 - 0.81. In subscales containing 4 or less items Cronbach alphas of 0.6 are deemed acceptable. 

Skill (with definition): The theoretical components measured in each of the 7 skill subscales

Positivity: Ability to experience positive emotions & feel optimistic for the future

  • Positive mood awareness & ability to change it
  • Ability to experience positive emotions
  • Optimism

Motivation: Direction & intensity of one's efforts

  • Effort intensity
  • Effort direction 
  • Self-determined motivation

Confidence: Level of self-belief that a person has to in their skills/capabilities

  • Confidence despite lack of previous performance accomplishments
  • Confidence despite performance accomplishment setbacks
  • Skill-based confidence 

Focus: The ability to focus on relevant cues and block out irrelevant cues

  • Focus maintenance 
  • Irrelevant cue filtering/selective attention
  • Flow/absorption

Meaning: Ability to connect to a higher meaning and purpose

  • Meaning in the everyday
  • Transcendence
  • Meaning in adversity 

Connection: Ability to form, maintain and facilitate relationships

  • Connecting 
  • Communication/listening 
  • Facilitating 

Stress management: Ability to manage the negative effects of stress

  • Emotion focused coping 
  • Problem focused coping 
  • Positive stress

List 1: Theoretical components measured in each 7 skill subscale

The repeatability of the mental fitness scale

Once we had agreed on the 21 items making up the mental fitness scale it was important to determine that the scale and subscales had a good level of repeatability as the mental fitness scale is used for evaluative purposes. To do this 100 participants were invited to complete the mental fitness scale 9 days apart. Intra-item correlations (ICCs) on data collected from the 2 timepoints ranged from 0.65 - 0.77 for the 7 skill subscales. The ICC of the whole mental fitness scale was 0.83. The data collected confirmed a sound level of repeatability in the scale. 

Concurrent validity of the 7 skills of mental fitness

To determine the validity of the mental fitness scale (e.g. the degree to which it measured what it was supposed to) we assessed the concurrent validity of the 7 skill subscales and the predictive validity of the overall mental fitness score. 

To determine the concurrent validity of the 7 skill subscales, each subscale was correlated with an already established and widely used measure of the same construct (e.g. the focus subscale was correlated with an already widely used measure of focus). Correlations were run on data collected from 215 participants and were significant at P<0.001 and r values ranged from 0.42 - 0.66. This indicates moderate correlations with existing similar measures. 

Predictive validity of the total mental fitness scale 

Given our hypothesis that mental fitness is a protective factor against wellbeing decline and plays a key role in an individual’s capacity for performance it was important to understand its predictive qualities.
As a result, the total mental fitness scale score was correlated with several outcomes it was hypothesised to predict and then linear and logistic regressions were run.
All outcomes were self-reported. Some of the measures were created for the purpose of the study and some made use of existing measures. See list 2 for relationships. Mental fitness was found to significantly correlate with a range of wellbeing and performance outcomes.

Outcomes correlated with mental fitness: R value (and significance, ** = P<0.001)

Exhaustion: r = -0.60 **

Disengagement: r = -0.49 **

Task work performance (the degree to which an individual gets their work tasks done): r = 0.48 **

Contextual performance (the degree to which an individual contributes to the wider organisation): r = 0.45 **

Counterproductive performance (behaviours that detract from work performance e.g. gossiping): r = -0.34 **

Average productivity (self-reported on a 0 - 100% scale): r = 0.31 **

Job satisfaction (Net promoter score): r = 0.35 **

Frequency of intention to quit thoughts: r = -0.40 **

List 2: Correlations between total mental fitness scores and a range of performance and wellbeing outcomes 

Further analyses revealed that mental fitness was significantly predictive of rates of exhaustion, disengagement, whether an individual was at risk for leaving their role, job satisfaction and productivity. Regression models were all significant at the p<0.001 level, and the variance that the models explained ranged from 9.1 - 30.9%. 

Based on our predictive models, a 10% increase in the mental fitness of every individual in an organisation equated to the following predictions:

  • 30% reduction in rates of exhaustion in an organisation 
  • 23% reduction in rates of disengagement in an organisation
  • 27% reduction in the number of people at risk of quitting their organisation. In a 100 person org 27% are at risk of quitting. Preventing their turnover by just 20% provides an organisational saving of £46645.
  • 4% improvement in individual productivity. On a salary of 30K a year this equated to a reduction of £1206 per employee per year in lost productivity.
  • An average 0.74 improvement in individuals’ net promoter scores (out of 10). 

Benchmark data 

Based on data collected from 650 workers in the UK (working a minimum of 30 hours per week) the following mental fitness benchmark data is provided. See list 3. 

Mental fitness skill: Benchmark

Stress management: 63%

Confidence: 67%

Focus: 69%

Motivation: 68%

Positivity: 64%

Connection : 64%

Meaning : 67%

Total mental fitness score: 66%

List 3: Mental fitness benchmark data 

Conclusion

Early analysis indicates that the mental fitness scale is valid and reliable and has the potential to predict meaningful wellbeing and performance outcomes. Further analysis is required to better understand the mental fitness scale. Specifically, a confirmatory factor analysis will be undertaken to verify the factors underlying mental fitness.

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Dr Fran Longstaff
Head of Psychology

Dr Fran Longstaff is Head of Psychology at Fika Mental Fitness. With more than 15 years' academic and applied experience in sport and exercise psychology, Fran oversees Fika's Behavioural Science output, designing and implementing organisation-wide Mental Fitness training programmes for Fika's client-base of more than 80 businesses, education institutions and healthcare organisations. She is passionate about training leaders and managers in how to build their own and their team’s Mental Fitness in order to transform the culture, output, productivity and happiness of their workplaces. Fran worked as a lecturer in Higher Education for 13 years before joining Fika, and still works closely with Fika's board of academic experts.

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