MacArthur SES & Health Network
MacArthur SES & Health Network

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Perceived Stress Scale- 4 Item

Instructions: The questions in this scale ask you about your feelings and thoughts during the last month.  In each case, please indicate with a check how often you felt or thought a certain way.
1.  In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?

 ___0=never ___1=almost never ___2=sometimes ___3=fairly often ___4=very often

2.  In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?

 ___0=never ___1=almost never ___2=sometimes ___3=fairly often ___4=very often

3.  In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?

 ___0=never ___1=almost never ___2=sometimes ___3=fairly often ___4=very often

4.  In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?

 ___0=never ___1=almost never ___2=sometimes ___3=fairly often ___4=very often

This scale can be found in the following articles:

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

Cohen, S., & Williamson, G. (1988). Perceived stress in a probability sample of the United States. In S. Spacapam & S. Oskamp (Eds.), The social psychology of health: Claremont Symposium on applied social psychology. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Perceived Stress Scale Scoring

PSS-4 scores are obtained by reverse coding the positive items, e.g., 0=4, 1=3, 2=2, etc. and then summing across all 4 items.  Items 2 and 3 are the positively stated items.

The PSS was designed for use with community samples with at least a junior high school education,  The items are easy to understand and the response alternatives are simple to grasp.  Moreover, as noted above, the questions are quite general in nature and hence relatively free of content specific to any sub population group.  The data reported in the article are from somewhat restricted samples, in that they are younger, more educated and contain fewer minority members than the general population.  In light of the generality of scale content and simplicity of language and response alternatives, we feel that data from representative samples of the general population would not differ significantly from those reported below.

Conditions of Scale Use

Permission for use of the scale is not necessary when use is for academic reseach or educational purposes. 

If you need written permission, please write the letter with a line for signature, along with a self addressed, stamped envelope,and send to:

Ellen Conser
Department of Psychology
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA  15213
or email your request with your complete address included:

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