Overview

The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) is a 10-item questionnaire originally developed by Cohen et al. (1983) widely used to assess stress levels in young people and adults aged 12 and above. It evaluates the degree to which an individual has perceived life as unpredictable, uncontrollable and overloading over the previous month.

Terms of use

The PSS is free to use. Permission for use of scales is not necessary when use is for non-profit academic research or non-profit educational purposes. For other uses, please find information on permissions by following the link here: https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/psychology/stress-immunity-disease-lab/scales/revised-pss-request-reply-for-all-requests.pdf

Scales/Subscales

Suitability

The PSS-10 can be used by children aged 12 and above (e.g. Kechter et al. 2019). The measure has been validated in both adolescent and adult populations.

Initial evidence suggests that the PSS-10 may allow for meaningful comparisons across different racial, ethnic or linguistic groups. Makhubela (2020) found that the measure was invariant across gender and race (Black African and White) in South-African university students. In addition, Baik et al. (2019) reported that the tool allowed for meaningful comparison between English and Spanish-speaking Hispanic Americans. However, more research is needed to explore the measurement invariance of the tool in different contexts.

We are not currently aware of any evidence regarding the accessibility of this measure for children and young people with learning disabilities. Please do get in touch at CORC@annafreud.org if you are aware of any information that may be of interest to users of the measure as we may be able to update our webpage to include it.

Administration

The questions in the PSS ask about feelings and thoughts during the last month. In each case, respondents are asked how often they felt a certain way.

It consists of 10 questions, takes 5-10 minutes to complete and is for individual or group administration.

Working remotely

We have received permission from the author and copyright owner to produce and share an electronically editable PDF version of the PSS-10 for remote working purposes. Please see here to access this version.

Scoring and interpretation

The questions ask about feelings and thoughts during the last month. In each case, respondents are asked how often they felt a certain way on a five-point scale from ‘never’ to ‘very often’. Answers are then scored as follow:

Never = 0

Almost never = 1

Sometimes = 2

Fairly often = 3

Very often = 4

To calculate a total PSS score, responses to the four positively stated items (items 4, 5, 7 and 8) first need to be reversed (i.e. 0 => 4; 1 => 3; 2 => 2; 3 => 1; 4 => 0).

The PSS score is then obtained by summing across all items. Higher scores indicate higher levels of perceived stress.

Normative data are available for adult populations for Bangladesh (Mozumder, 2019), Germany (Klein et al. 2016), Greece (Andreou et al. 2011), Mexico (González-Ramírez et al. 2013) and Sweden (Nordin, 2013).

The Perceived Stress Scale is not a diagnostic instrument and the developer has not published any score cut-offs.

Psychometric properties

Property

Definition

PSS-10

Internal consistency

Degree to which similar items within a scale correlate with each other.

The PSS-10 has been shown to have a good internal consistency in both adults and university student populations, as reviewed by Lee (2012).  Additional evidence also indicates good internal consistency in American (Kechter et al. 2019) and Chinese adolescents (Liu et al. 2020).

Test-retest reliability

Degree to which the same respondents have the same score after period of time when trait shouldn't have changed.

Test-retest reliability was found to be adequate in adults over a 2-week and 4-week period (Lee, 2012).

Construct validity

Degree to which a questionnaire measures the theoretical construct it is intended to measure.

A systematic review by Lee (2012) indicates that the PSS-10 tends to consist of two factors in adult and university student populations: Perceived Helplessness and Perceived Self‐Efficacy.

Similar findings were found in Chinese adolescents (Liu et al. 2020) and American adolescents (Kechter et al. 2019)

Convergent validity

Degree to which two measures of constructs that theoretically should be related are in fact related.

Liu et al. (2020) found that scores on the PSS-10 were positively correlated with stressful life events in Chinese adolescents.

Concurrent validity

If a measure correlates well with a measure that has previously been validated.

The PSS-10 showed good concurrent validity. It was positively correlated with measures of anxiety and depression in adults and university students (Lee, 2012) and in adolescents (e.g. Liu et al. 2020; Sood et al. 2013).

Translation

A wide range of translated versions of the PSS are available, including Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Hebrew, Greek, Italian, German, Moroccan, Chinese, Bengali, Tamil, Urdu and Arabic. See here for more information: https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/psychology/stress-immunity-disease-lab/scales/index.html

Other versions

Useful resources

See here for more information: https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/psychology/stress-immunity-disease-lab/scales/index.html

References

Andreou, E., Alexopoulos, E. C., Lionis, C., Varvogli, L., Gnardellis, C., Chrousos, G. P., & Darviri, C. (2011). Perceived stress scale: reliability and validity study in Greece. International journal of environmental research and public health, 8(8), 3287-3298.

Baik, S. H., Fox, R. S., Mills, S. D., Roesch, S. C., Sadler, G. R., Klonoff, E. A., & Malcarne, V. L. (2019). Reliability and validity of the Perceived Stress Scale-10 in Hispanic Americans with English or Spanish language preference. Journal of health psychology, 24(5), 628-639.

Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(4), 385–396.

González-Ramírez, M. T., Rodríguez-Ayán, M. N., & Hernández, R. L. (2013). The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS): Normative data and factor structure for a large-scale sample in Mexico. Spanish Journal of Psychology, 16.

Kechter, A., Black, D. S., Riggs, N. R., Warren, C. M., Ritt-Olson, A., Chou, C. P., & Pentz, M. A. (2019). Factors in the perceived stress scale differentially associate with mindfulness disposition and executive function among early adolescents. Journal of child and family studies, 28(3), 814-821.

Klein, E. M., Brähler, E., Dreier, M., Reinecke, L., Müller, K. W., Schmutzer, G., ... & Beutel, M. E. (2016). The German version of the Perceived Stress Scale–psychometric characteristics in a representative German community sample. BMC psychiatry, 16(1), 1-10.

Lee, E. H. (2012). Review of the psychometric evidence of the perceived stress scale. Asian nursing research, 6(4), 121-127.

Mozumder, M. K. (2019). Normative Data on Bangla Version of the Beck Hopelessness Scale, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the General Health Questionnaire. Bangladesh Psychological Studies. 29(1), 43-58.

Nordin, M., & Nordin, S. (2013). Psychometric evaluation and normative data of the Swedish version of the 10‐item perceived stress scale. Scandinavian journal of psychology, 54(6), 502-507.

Sood, S., Bakhshi, A., & Devi, P. (2013). An assessment of perceived stress, resilience and mental health of adolescents living in border areas. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 3(1), 1-4.

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