Measure Your Stress Level with Perceived Stress Scale

We are often told that stress is an integral part of the modern lifestyle. And, that’s true to a great extent. But, equally true is the fact that stress is a subjective thing – it affects different people differently. What may be a stressful situation for one person may be of least concern to someone else. This is the reason, stress cannot be objectively measured as your height or weight. Nevertheless, it is important to know how stressed you are. Measuring stress level is important in order to ascertain if a person needs professional help to manage her stress. One of the ways devised to measure your stress level is – Perceived Stress Scale.

What is a Perceived Stress Scale?

As the name suggests this tool measures the ‘perceived’ stress i.e. how stressful a person perceives her state to be! This is entirely subjective. Perceived Stress Scale was originally developed in 1983 but it is still one of the most popular tools to assess the stress level of a person. Dr. Sheldon Cohen, the developer of this scale, created a set of questions to determine a person’s stress level during the past month. Based on the scores of the scale a person can be said to have low perceived stress, moderate perceived stress or high perceived stress.

Measure Your Stress Level on the Perceived Stress Scale

Measuring stress level on PSS involves the following three steps:

Step 1

To measure your perceived stress level, you’ll have to assign a number against each question given in the following table:

0 = Never
1 = Almost Never
2 = Sometimes
3 = Fairly Often
4 = Very Often


Perceived Stress Scale
S.No. Question Your Score
During the last one month
1 How often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?
2 How often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
3 How often have you felt nervous and stressed?
4 How often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
5 How often have you felt that things were going your way?
6 How often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?
7 How often have you been able to control irritations in your life?
8 How often have you felt that you were on top of things?
9 How often have you been angered because of things that happened that were outside of your control?
10 How often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?

Step 2

Reverse the scores allotted to question number 4, 5, 7 and 8 i.e. all the four positively worded questions. When your reverse the scores, 0 becomes 4, 1 becomes 3 and vice versa. Number two remains the same.

Step 3

Add all the allotted scores and find out your total scores. This will include scores allotted to question number 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 10 and the reversed score of 4, 5, 7 and 8.

Meaning of Your Score on Perceived Stress Scale

The resultant score on Perceived Stress Scale ranges from 0 to 40. The higher the score the greater is the perceived stress of the person.

  • Score 0 to 13 is considered Low Perceived Stress
  • Score 14 to 26 is considered Moderate Perceived Stress
  • Score 27 to 40 is considered High Perceived Stress

With this Perceived Stress Scale, you can yourself assess your level of stress but it is worth noting the assessment of the Perceived Stress Scale does not reflect any diagnosis in particular. If you are scoring high on the Perceived Stress Scale you may contact a doctor or get some professional help.

Note: You might find mentions of PSS 14, PSS 10, PSS 4 or even PSS 13. You should not get confused. The numbers after the PSS signifies the number of questions contained in that particular set of Perceived Stress Scale. PSS 10 (the one we shared) is considered to be the standard as the result of this scale was more satisfactory than the others.

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