Tools for measuring individual self-care capability

Our ability to engage in self-care practices plays a crucial role in promoting overall well-being and preventing and managing non-communicable diseases. To support individuals in assessing their self-care capabilities, many measurement tools have been developed. However, a comprehensive review specifically focusing on non-mono-disease specific self-care measurement tools for adults has been lacking. Our  scoping review in the journal BMC Public Health aims to identify and characterise such tools, including their content, structure, and psychometric properties.

Shifting Emphasis and Methodology

The review encompassed a thorough search of Embase, PubMed, PsycINFO, and CINAHL databases, covering a wide range of MeSH terms and keywords from January 1950 to November 2022. The inclusion criteria involved tools that assess health literacy, capability, and performance of general health self-care practices, targeting adults. Tools exclusive to disease management or specific medical settings were excluded. A total of 38 relevant tools, described in 42 primary reference studies, were identified from a pool of 26,304 reports.

A key observation from the descriptive analysis was the temporal shift in emphasis among the identified tools. Initially, there was a stronger focus on rehabilitation-oriented tools, while more recent tools have shown a shift towards prevention-oriented approaches. This reflects a growing recognition of the importance of proactive self-care practices to maintain optimal health and prevent the onset or progression of diseases.

Additionally, the method of administering these tools has evolved over time. Traditional observe-and-interview style methods have given way to self-reporting tools, which empower individuals to actively participate in assessing their own self-care capabilities. This shift in methods recognizes the value of self-awareness and self-reflection as integral components of self-care.

Content Assessment and Limitations

To provide a qualitative assessment of each tool, the review utilized the Seven Pillars of Self-Care framework. This framework encompasses seven domains of self-care: health literacy, self-awareness of physical and mental well-being, self-management of health conditions, physical activity, healthy eating, risk avoidance or mitigation, and good hygiene practices. Surprisingly, only five out of the identified tools incorporated questions that covered all seven pillars of self-care. This finding highlights the need for the development of a comprehensive, validated, and easily accessible tool capable of assessing a wide range of self-care practices.

While this review makes significant strides in identifying and characterizing non-mono-disease specific self-care measurement tools, it does have limitations. For example, the search was limited to specific databases and only included English-language studies. Therefore, some relevant tools and studies in other languages may have been overlooked.

Implications and Future Directions

The findings of this review underscore the importance of enhancing our understanding and assessment of self-care capabilities. By incorporating the Seven Pillars of Self-Care, a comprehensive tool can provide a holistic assessment, allowing for targeted health and social care interventions. Such interventions can empower individuals to improve their self-care practices, thereby promoting better health outcomes and reducing the burden of chronic diseases.

Moving forwards, future research should focus on developing a comprehensive, validated tool that encompasses a broader range of self-care practices. Additionally, efforts should be made to ensure the accessibility and usability of such a tool, considering diverse populations and their unique needs. Collaborative efforts between researchers, healthcare professionals, and technology experts can facilitate the creation of an effective and widely applicable self-care measurement tool.


Self-care is a fundamental aspect of promoting health and well-being across diverse populations. While several disease specific self-care measurement tools exist, this review highlights the need for a comprehensive, validated, and easily accessible tool that assesses a wide range of self-care practices. By embracing the Seven Pillars of Self-Care framework, we can effectively evaluate individual self-care capabilities, inform targeted interventions, and empower individuals to take an active role in their health and well-being. With continued research and collaboration, we can develop tools that facilitate and support the practice of self-care, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes for individuals and communities alike.