The Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale, better known as DASS, is a psychometric test developed by Peter Lovibond and fellow researchers at UNSW Sydney.
It is intended as a self-report instrument that can be used and be helpful to researchers and professional clinicians to assess the intensity of these three negative emotions in any individual.
The DASS was developed using a group of non-clinical subjects to be as widely applicable as possible. The goal was to use the group as a sample of the population, rather than focusing solely on patients with a clinical history that could potentially influence the results. In this sense, it is a “democratic” test as it can be administered to adolescents and adults of any social class and educational background.
The Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale assesses individuals dimensionally rather than by category. It considers these negative emotions inherent to any human being, but that is experienced to different degrees in distinct periods of time. For example, an individual may experience high levels of stress in the week prior to an important exam, but see those levels drop significantly once the exam is completed. In this sense, this scale is a state and not a trait measure.
The DASS test includes 42 questions, 14 per item. There is also a shorter version, the DASS 21, which contains 21 questions in total, 7 per item. The first one offers results more reliable and is especially recommended as an instrument to help in clinical diagnosis. Since it is shorter and can be completed in much less time, the DASS 21, which is the version offered in iqtests.org, is mostly used for research purposes.
The results of any of the DASS tests are not intended as a diagnostic of any kind. They were designed to support professionals in their patients’ diagnosis, as well as researchers and independent individuals who wish to have a better understanding of their emotions.
The following test is the DASS 21, which contains 21 statements. For each one, you will be asked to select the option that applied the best to you over the last 7 days (one week).
Some of the statements will ask about your degree of agreement or disagreement with them, while others will be focused on the intensity of emotions and feelings. The options are: Never, Sometimes, Often, and Always.
Choose only one option per statement. There are no right or wrong answers.
This test is designed with the intent of being an insightful and educational tool. We do not guarantee the accuracy of the results as they depend on the precision and fidelity of the test-takers’ self-evaluation and the honesty of their answers. As such, they should not be used as an indicator of the capacities of the individual for a specific purpose nor do they constitute a psychological or psychiatric evaluation of any kind.
We do not collect personally identifiable information of the test-takers but responses may be recorded and used for research purposes or to be otherwise distributed. All responses are recorded anonymously.
The DASS test assesses the levels of depression, anxiety, and stress of the individual as part of a dimension and not as a category. In other words, it considers these emotions as states and not personality traits. One of its basic premises is that all human beings experience these three negative emotions, but the degree to which they feel them may vary over time.
As such, this instrument was developed as an aid for doctors and researchers to evaluate and clarify emotional disturbances in the individual. The results provided are merely indicative. Any diagnosis or treatment plan should always be made by experienced clinicians and doctors.
The DASS and DASS-21 tests merely identify where the individual lies on the spectrum of depression, anxiety, and stress. However, they do not indicate possible causes, related symptoms, or treatment.
For example, some dimensions may share some symptoms (e.g., lack of appetite, insomnia) that might indicate a different physiological problem and not an emotional one. That is why the creators of the DASS emphasize the need for clinical evaluation and that the tests are merely indicative.
The Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale interpret these three emotions as dimensions. It assumes that an individual can experience different intensity degrees of each one and that each can be broken down into distinct emotional characteristics as well.
The creators of the DASS tests assign the following different emotions and feelings to each dimension:
- dishearten, somber, joyless
- believes that life has no meaning or value
- pessimistic about the future
- unable to feel any kind of enjoyment or satisfaction
- feels unable to become interested or involved
- sluggish, without initiative
- nervous and apprehensive
- may feel the body tremble and shake
- experiences mouth dryness, breathing difficulties, fast heartbeat, and feels the palms of the hands often sweaty.
- is often worried about losing control and failing to perform.
- nervous, fidgety, and tense
- sensitive and quick to get upset
- easily unsettled and unable to relax
- Irritable and intolerant of delays and interruptions.
This test, as well as the DASS-21, is designed as a self-informative instrument that can be administered by both professionals and non-professionals. This stems from the nature of their results. They are only indicative and are not associated with any diagnosis or psychology theory.
Even if anyone can administer the test, the interpretation of the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale as well as any potential diagnosis and/or treatment, when applicable, must always be made by a clinician or doctor.
That being said, the test was designed to be easily administered for a reason. It gives anyone the chance to try it and satisfy their curiosity. An individual may take it as a means to know themselves better or to better understand their emotions. Likewise, people feeling uncomfortably stressed, anxious or with the blues, may also find it useful to take the DASS or DASS-21 to try to understand if what they are feeling might be normal or to confirm their suspicions that they should visit a professional and seek help.
Lovibond, S.H. & Lovibond, P.F. (1995). Manual for the Depression Anxiety & Stress Scales. (2nd Ed.)Sydney: Psychology Foundation.