Development and initial validation of the COVID Stress Scales Academic Article uri icon

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  • Research and clinical observations suggest that during times of pandemic many people exhibit stress- or anxiety-related responses that include fear of becoming infected, fear of coming into contact with possibly contaminated objects or surfaces, fear of foreigners who might be carrying infection (i.e., disease-related xenophobia), fear of the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic, compulsive checking and reassurance-seeking regarding possible pandemic-related threats, and traumatic stress symptoms about the pandemic (e.g., nightmares, intrusive thoughts). We developed the 36-item COVID Stress Scales (CSS) to measure these features, as they pertain to COVID-19. The CSS were developed to better understand and assess COVID-19-related distress. The scales were intentionally designed so they could be readily adapted for future pandemics. The CSS were developed and initially validated in population-representative samples from Canada (N = 3479) and the United States (N = 3375). A stable 5-factor solution was identified, corresponding to scales assessing COVID-related stress and anxiety symptoms: (1) Danger and contamination fears, (2) fears about economic consequences, (3) xenophobia, (4) compulsive checking and reassurance seeking, and (5) traumatic stress symptoms about COVID-19. The scales performed well on various indices of reliability and validity. The scales were intercorrelated, providing evidence of a COVID Stress Syndrome. The scales offer promise as tools for better understanding the distress associated with COVID-19 and for identifying people in need of mental health services.


  • Taylor, S. Martin
  • Landry, Caeleigh A
  • Paluszek, Michelle M
  • Fergus, Thomas A
  • McKay, Dean
  • Asmundson, Gordon JG

publication date

  • May 2020

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