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.