Original Research

Usefulness of the English version of the Stress Overload Scale in a sample of employed South Africans

Charles H. van Wijk
African Journal of Psychological Assessment | Vol 3 | a41 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajopa.v3i0.41 | © 2021 Charles H. van Wijk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 October 2020 | Published: 25 June 2021

About the author(s)

Charles H. van Wijk, Division of Health Systems and Public Health, Department of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa; and Department of Psychology, Institute for Maritime Medicine, Simon’s Town, South Africa


Amidst reports of high levels of stress in South Africa, it remained difficult to quantify psychological stress in the absence of locally validated measures. This study explored the English version of the Stress Overload Scale (SOS) in a South African sample. The first aim was to replicate the basic psychometric analysis of the original English version used in American samples, as well as the Setswana version used in a South African rural community setting. The second aim was to investigate criterion validity to determine its appropriateness for use in South Africa. A total of 2136 employed South Africans with at least 9 years of schooling participated in this study. Participants completed a range of mental health and well-being measures, both clinical and dispositional. Responses were analysed to examine both scale characteristics and validity indices related to the SOS. Little sociodemographic influence (age, gender and first language) was found, with analyses supporting validity across most indices. Furthermore, good predictive ability for mental (ill-) health was observed. This study, for the most part, replicated previous validation findings of the SOS. Validity was further confirmed by correlating the scale with measures of clinical mental health and dispositional well-being. Given the positive support to its validity, when used amongst employed South Africans with at least 9 years of education, the scale holds promise for application in local health-related research, for triage in primary healthcare contexts and for measuring outcomes of mental health interventions in therapeutic settings.


anxiety; depression; occupational medicine; stress; stress overload scale; South Africa; workplace health


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