Non-preference-based measures cannot be used to directly obtain utilities but can be converted to preference-based measures through mapping. The only mapping algorithm for estimating Child Health Utility-9D (CHU9D) utilities from Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) responses has limitations. This study aimed to develop a more accurate algorithm.
We used a large sample of children (n = 6898), with negligible missing data, from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients were used to assess conceptual overlap between SDQ and CHU9D. Direct mapping (involving seven regression methods) and response mapping (involving one regression method) approaches were considered. The final model was selected by ranking the performance of each method by averaging the following across tenfold cross-validation iterations: mean absolute error (MAE), mean squared error (MSE), and MAE and MSE for two subsamples where predicted utility values were < 0.50 (poor health) or > 0.90 (healthy). External validation was conducted using data from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services study.
SDQ and CHU9D were moderately correlated (ρ = − 0.52, p < 0.001). EFA demonstrated that all CHU9D domains were associated with four SDQ subscales. The best-performing model was the Generalized Linear Model with SDQ items and gender as predictors (full sample MAE: 0.1149; MSE: 0.0227). The new algorithm performed well in the external validation.
The proposed mapping algorithm can produce robust estimates of CHU9D utilities from SDQ data for economic evaluations. Further research is warranted to assess the applicability of the algorithm among children with severe health problems.