Perceived stress

Perceived stress

LASA filenames:
LASA104 / LASA304

Contact: Almar Kok


Stress is experienced when the environmental demands exceeds a person’s adaptive capacity and is associated with health and diseases such as depression and cardiovascular diseases (Cohen et al. 2007). Stress can be quantified in different ways. Stressors can be measured, for example by asking about negative life events which are experienced. The number of life events can then be used as a measure of cumulative stress. However, people might react differently to stressors and  other sources of stress such as ongoing stressors, expectations of the future, and negative events in the lives of loved ones are not included when asking about life events.

A global measure of perceived stress gives information about the amount of stress which is currently experienced in a person’s live.

Measurement instruments in LASA
In LASA, the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is used to measure perceived stress (Cohen et al. 1983). This questionnaire measures the global levels of stress in the last month by asking to which degree persons find their lives unpredictable, uncontrollable and overloaded.

Van Eck et al. (1996) translated the 10-item version of the PSS into Dutch and showed that the norms for perceived stress were comparable to those of the U.S. Unfortunately this translated version was not available and therefore the PSS was translated again for LASA.  First, the items were translated from English into Dutch by a native Dutch person fluent in English, and then back to English by a native English-speaking person who also speaks Dutch fluently . A consensus translation was reached for items for which there was no full agreement.

The 10 questions are answered on a 5 point Likert scale from ‘never’ (0) to ‘very often’ (4). The scale consists of 6 negatively worded items and 4 positively worded items.

Scale construction

First, the positively worded items are recoded so that higher scores indicate greater perceived stress. The scale is derived by summing the score of the items, and ranges from 0-40. Higher scores indicate higher levels of perceived stress. If one item is missing, this item is imputed with the rounded mean of the other 9 items. If more than one item is missing, the PSS sum score is not calculated.

The PSS consists two subscales: the perceived helplessness and the perceived self-efficacy subscale. The perceived helplessness scale consists of the negative worded items (items 1, 2, 3, 6, 9 and 10) and ranges from 0-24. The perceived self-efficacy scale consists of the positive worded items (items 4, 5, 7 and8) and ranges from 0-16. The subscale scores are not provided by LASA but can be derived by researchers from the separate items contained in file 104.


LASAH104 / LAS3B104 (self-administered questionnaire, in Dutch).

Variable information

LASAH104 / LAS3B104;
LASAH304 / LAS3B304 (scale scores)

Availability of information per wave




¹ More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.

* 2B=baseline second cohort;
3B=baseline third cohort;
MB=migrants: baseline first cohort

Sa=data collected in self-administered questionnaire

Previous use in LASA

The PSS is used in a publication of Korten et al. (2017) in which the association between perceived stress and cognitive functioning is examined.


  1. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Miller GE. Psychological stress and disease. JAMA 2007;298:1685-1687.
  2. Cohen S, Kamarck T, Mermelstein R. A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 1983;24:385-396.
  3. Korten NCM, Comijs HC, Penninx BWJH, Deeg DJH. (2017). Perceived stress and cognitive function in older adults: which aspect of perceived stress is important? International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 32, 4, 439-445.
  4. van Eck M, Berkhof H, Nicolson N, Sulon J. The effects of perceived stress, traits, mood states, and stressful daily events on salivary cortisol. Psychosom Med. 1996;58(5):447-58.

Date of last update: December, 2019