Because of its extensive associations with health outcomes, stress has long been an important research topic. The transactional model regards stress as an interaction between the individual and the environment (Lazarus & Folkman 1984). Stress arises when one appraises an event as threatening to the accomplishment of important goals or overwhelming to one’s resources. The transactional meaning of stress thus not only incorporates environmental and personal characteristics, but also emphasizes the subjective appraisal of the event. The same stimulus may generate different interpretations, responses, and coping strategies among individuals with different experiences and personality traits.
In accordance with the transactional model of stress, Cohen, Kamarck, and Mermelstein (Cohen et al. 1983) developed the Perceived Stress Scale as a global stress measure. The scale assesses the degree to which situations are appraised as stressful during the previous month. Originally, this self-report scale comprised 14 items. Later the authors reported the shortened 10-item version (PSS-10) as psychometrically superior to the original 14-item version (Cohen & Williamson 1988). The PSS-10 has demonstrated adequate internal consistency, with Cronbach’s alpha coefficients ranging from 0.72 to 0.91 in previous studies conducted in samples of college students, participants of smoking-cessation program, adults in the community, workers of occupational health care centers, policewomen, medical students and hospital inpatients (Leung et al. 2010; Orucu & Demir 2009; Wongpakaran & Wongpakaran 2010). Previous research has also found evidence for the scale’s construct validity. It was negatively correlated with positive measures, such as perceived health in college students and participants of smoking-cessation program, and self-esteem of medical students and hospital inpatients. On the other hand it was positively correlated with negative measures, such as health complaints in college students (Otto et al. 2004), state anxiety and depressive symptoms in depression patients, medical students and hospital inpatients (Orucu & Demir 2009; Wongpakaran & Wongpakaran 2010), susceptibility to the common cold in healthy adults (Cohen et al. 1993), and emotional exhaustion in college students (Ramirez & Hernandez 2007).
Regarding the scale’s dimensionality, most researchers have found evidence for a two-factor structure (Eskin & Parr 1996; Wang et al. 2011; Wongpakaran & Wongpakaran 2010; Orucu & Demir 2009; Otto et al. 2004; Roberti et al. 2006; Reis et al. 2010). The two factors revealed in the EFAs were named Perceived Helplessness (comprised of items 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, and 10) and Perceived Self-efficacy (comprised of items 4, 5, 7, and 8, which are reversely coded when computing the total score).
In a study of 60 suicide survivors, Mitchell, Crane, and Kim (Mitchell et al. 2008) argued for a one-factor structure for PSS-10 even though the eigenvalue of the second factor was still bigger than 1. The main arguments were, firstly, the primary factor already accounted for sufficient amount of the total variance explained (56.6%), and secondly, being conceptualized as a global assessment of stress, a one-dimensional structure for PSS-10 is theoretically more coherent.
PSS, especially the 10-item version, has been widely adopted in health outcome studies. The PSS-10 has been translated and validated in Japanese (Mimura & Griffiths 2008), Swedish (Eskin & Parr 1996), Spanish (Ramirez & Hernandez 2007), Turkish (Otto et al. 2004), Portuguese (Reis et al. 2010), French (Lessage et al. 2012), and Thai (Wongpakaran & Wongpakaran 2010). Given the close relation between stress and a wide range of well-being measures such as perceived health (Cohen et al. 1983), negative affect (Cohen et al. 1993; Ho et al. 2004), and workplace well-being (Duran et al. 2006; Prosser et al. 1997; Ro et al. 2010), it is essential to have a measure of perceived stress validated in the Chinese people. Although the PSS-10 has been translated into Chinese (Lee & Crockett 1994) and the Chinese PSS-10 (CPSS-10) has been applied in various previous studies (Ho et al. 2004; Gao et al. 2009; Chung & Tang 2006), the psychometric properties of CPSS-10 have rarely been examined. These previous studies have merely reported the scale’s internal consistency (Cronbach’s alphas ranging from 0.74 to 0.82), and provided minimal information on its factorial and construct validity. The only exceptions were more recent studies by Leung (Leung et al. 2010) and Wang (Wang et al. 2011). Leung examined the factor structure, internal consistency and construct validity of the 4, 10 and 14-item versions of CPSS. Leung concluded that the 10-item version CPSS, with a two-factor structure, showed the best overall psychometric properties. Wang evaluated the factor structure of CPSS-10 and recommended a 2-factor structure. However, since these two studies were on very specific groups, cardiac patients who smoked and policewomen respectively, the transferability of the findings to other population groups is unsure.
Because of the high relevance of the notion of stress in workplace, it is essential to validate CPSS-10 in working adults. The current study evaluated the psychometric properties of CPSS-10 in elderly service workers in Hong Kong.