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What Is the Perceived Stress Scale?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The Perceived Stress Scale is a psychological test used to measure an individual's perception of stress in his life. The test has three versions all composed of similar questions to help determine the overall levels and triggers of stress in a person's life. The most commonly used version of the Perceived Stress Scale is a 10-question test that asks the individual to rate how often he felt or thought certain things in the past month. Other versions of the scale include four or 14 questions, though the 10-question scale is thought to be the most reliable.

Questions included in the Perceived Stress Scale test are worded simply and are easy to understand, making it a good choice to use with most people who are able to read at junior high level. The questions do not ask about specific events or stress triggers because the goal of the Perceived Stress Scale is to arrive at a score that will allow the test administrator to evaluate the general levels of daily stress in a person's life. Perceived Stress Scale questions ask the test taker to rate how often they felt a certain way or how often they were able to mentally handle irritations and frustrations. The choices for the perceived stress scale questions include never, almost never, sometimes, fairly often, and very often.

Scoring the Perceived Stress Scale requires a simple calculation where a number value is assigned to each possible choice a respondent could choose. The numbers for the possible responses coincide with how much that particular response correlates to stress for the question. For example, an answer of “never” would be assigned a score of four for the question “In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?” The “never” response would be assigned a value of zero, however, for the question “In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?”

By totaling the scores, researches, psychiatrists, and other health care providers can get a relative idea of how stressed the individual feels in his daily life. This can help with diagnosis of physical and mental problems, since high levels of stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart problems, appetite changes, depression, and many other mental and physical conditions. If an individual is highly stressed, treatment may include therapy or relaxation techniques to help lower the perception of stress and allow the body and brain to heal.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Laotionne — On Dec 15, 2014

When I hear the term perceived stress and the stress scale I think that maybe stress can be eliminated simply by changing the way you think about your life. I wish getting away from stress really were this easy to do.

By Animandel — On Dec 15, 2014

Without doubt, the area of my life that has the potential to cause me the most stress is my family. I hope this doesn't sound too bad because I do love my family. However, what I like most about having a full-time job outside of the home is that I get to get away from my family five days a week.

I think my family has the ability to give me so much stress because I love them so much, and I want the best for them. I like my job, but if I were fired tomorrow, I would survive just fine, so why should I stress over work?

By Feryll — On Dec 14, 2014

I'm a firm believer in the adage that perception is reality. If you believe you are stressed then you are stressed. After all, the brain controls so much about the way we feel and our ultimate health anyway.

One reason that exercise is good at reducing stress in most instances is because the brain is not focused on the real or perceived stresses in a person's life during exercise. I have noticed that when I go to the gym during my lunch break, I feel much more relaxed and ready for work in the afternoon.

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