No matter who we are or where we come from, we all experience stress at some point in our lives. How exactly can you know however, just how stressed you are?

In the field of Psychology, many researchers have investigated the best ways to measure emotional experiences such as stress. This area of research has a name of its own, called “Psychometrics”. Psychometric measurements are designed to measure aspects of the human mind, in a way that is both reliable and valid. Psychometric tests are forced-option assessments that ask the user to select an answer to a series of questions that relate to a particular behaviour.

Psychometric measurements often take the format of a multiple-choice questionnaire.

Within the uMore app, we follow this methodology to measure the stress levels of our users. Specifically, we use a psychometric measure called “The Perceived Stress Scale”, or PSS for short.

What Is The PSS?

The Perceived Stress Scale s a self-reported survey used to screen for symptoms of stress. It was developed by a team of researchers led by Sheldon Cohen in 1994.

How Does The PSS Work?

The PSS asks questions that are designed to gauge how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded respondents find their lives. The survey also uses a number of direct queries about current levels of experienced stress by the users who complete it.

The survey consists of 10 questions which are responded to via multiple-choice options using a Likert scale (0 = Never 1 = Almost Never 2 = Sometimes 3 = Fairly Often 4 = Very Often). Example questions include “In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?” and “In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?”.

A total score is derived by adding the total value of the numbers assigned to each response question.

What Does The Score Mean?

Once the total value of each question is added, a total score between 0-40 will be outputted. The higher the score, the higher the degree of perceived stress. Specifically:

  • Scores between 0-13 indicate low stress.
  • Scores between 14-26 indicate moderate stress.
  • Scores between 27-40 indicate high stress.

Is The PSS Clinically Significant?

Yes, the PSS has been used to measure stress in both research and treatment settings. If you really want to understand the science behind it, then look no further.

During the process of assessing validity and reliability, researchers statistically analyze the results of the survey from participants. The researchers will analyze the survey’s reliability (using Cronbach’s alpha, a score of internal consistency). The researchers will also assess the test-retest reliability (the extent to which the same user reports similar scores, without any experimental manipulation). The researchers then investigate its diagnostic criterion (the extent to which it can predicatively screen for what it attempts to screen for in an ecological setting). Construct validity is also assessed by comparing the association of results from the survey in question to that of similarly validated surveys that have come before it, as well as with clinical interviews conducted by clinicians. Finally, factorial validity is commonly assessed within the scale as well, to determine the extent to which the underlying putative structure of a psychometric survey is recoverable in a set of test scores. This is determined by assessing the correlation of each item with a shared factor.

In a 2012 research paper published by Lee and colleagues, it was suggested that the PSS demonstrated acceptable internal consistency, test-retest reliability, factorial validity, and criterion validity.

How Can I Test My Stress Score?

The uMore app is now available for download, with our screening measures providing instant results on-app. Download uMore to get your stress score assessed today!

Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders
Written by Alejandro Serrano Saunders

Alejandro is the Chief-Scientific Officer of uMore, the AI-powered mental well-being tracker.

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