Perceived Stress Scale


Author: Sheldon Cohen

The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is the most widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress. It is a measure of the degree to which situations in one’s life are appraised as stressful. Items were designed to assess how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded respondents find their lives to be. The scale also includes a number of direct queries about current levels of experienced stress. Moreover, the questions are of a general nature and hence are relatively free of content specific to any sub-population group. 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.

Copyright © 1994 by Sheldon Cohen

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Features of the PSS

Purpose: Measure the perception of stress

Length: 10 items

Average completion time: 5-10 minutes

Target population: Individuals with at least a junior high school education

Administration: For individual or group administration

Uses of the PSS

  • Stress perception research


Perceived Stress

From the PSS

"...a psychometrically sound global measure of perceived stress could provide valuable additional information about the relationship between stress and pathology.... the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) [was] developed in response to these issues. The PSS measures the degree to which situations in one's life are appraised as stressful."

-- Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R., "A Global Measure of Perceived Stress"

Selected References

Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R., "A Global Measure of Perceived Stress," in Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24 (1983), 385-396. Full text here (pdf)

Sheldon Cohen & Gail Williamson, "Perceived Stress in a Probability Sample of the United States," in Social Psychology of Health, ed. S. Spacapan & S. Oskamp (Sage, 1988). Full text here (pdf)

More on Stress and Social Support at Sheldon Cohen's personal website at Carnegie Mellon University

PSS Form

Perceived Stress Scale Form

Download the PSS Form free of charge. Mind Garden does not publish the PSS. Many questions can be answered on Sheldon Cohen's personal website and all questions should be addressed to

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