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Scale Of Psychological Distress And Its Psychometric Properties

 May 26, 2022
Kessler Scale of Psychological Distress

Stress and anxiety are the key components to define a person's behavior and social interaction. Psychological distress means the variation in psychological functioning and the interaction of stressful life activities. Psychological distress covers multiple mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.  The parameters which define psychological distress are discomfort, inability to cope with things effectively, emotional status change and discomfort in communication. The chances of developing any type of typical mental health disorder has been found to be approximately 32.2% in high income group countries and 25% in low or middle income group countries. In the world, the lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders was found to be around 12.9% and of depression to be 10-15%, which is associated with an increase in the mortality risk of 20X. (Dr. Catherine).


Kessler psychological distress scale: The Kessler psychological distress scale, commonly called the K10 scale, is a self report which is widely used to measure psychological distress and further can be used in identification of persons who are in need of anxiety and depression assessment. It was developed to be used in the US national health survey. This measure was initially designed to be used by the general population but it has exciting clinical use. The K10 scale comprises of ten items that need to be answered with a 5 point scale (1 equals to "None of the time"; 5 equals to "all of the time") and experience in the last 4 weeks. Results can then be compared with the reference like score 50 indicates severe distress, and a score of indicates no distress (Dr. Andrews).


The use and benefits of the self-report measure is very much-needed for the assessment of the condition of a person. It is because of the requirement of such assessments for the clinicians to collect information or mental status on the patient’s current condition. The K10 demonstrated an enormous level of consistency in the results and factors associated with either females or males. K10 may also be appropriate and useful if used in the community mental health services. Traumatic brain injury patients are prone to psychological distress and depressive symptoms. Many studies have indicated the stronger correlations with anxiety and depression in patients with mild traumatic brain injury as compared to orthopedic trauma patients.

A Case Study: The 10-item scale of the Kessler Psychological Distress or K10 were to assess psychological distress levels in various population based surveys.  The key objective of the study was to explore the factor structure and reliability of this scale measure. This was a cross-sectional study which included around 700 adults. Study results showed that approximately 37.9% of the adults reported highly significant distress symptoms. K10 scale internal consistency was found to be 0.91 (α=.91) and inter-item correlation was found from .350 to .659. The K10 tool was found to be quite sensitive to socio-demographic variables. Individuals aged more that 40 showed higher distress levels who were actually belongs to the working class. The data indicates K10 as a reliable and useful tool to assess psychological distress (Dr. Jardim).

The Kessler scale of psychological distress showed a commendable correlation with the quality of life of patients and a negative correlation with depression (Dr. Ferro). The K10 scale was designed to be accurate and sensitive for the clinically significant value of the nonspecific distress to differentiate patients with serious mental issues and healthy ones. The K10 is equivalents of the NHIS in the Australia and Canada and also included in all the important national surveys in the WHO's World Mental Health Initiative. 

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