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Kessler Psychological Distress Scale 10

Kessler Psychological Distress Scale 10

What is K10

The Kessler Psychological Distress Scale 10 (K10) is a 10-question screening scale of psychological distress. This is intended to yield a global measure of distress based on questions about anxiety and depressive symptoms that a person has experienced in the most recent 4 week period. The scale was designed to be sensitive around the threshold for the clinically significant range of the distribution of nonspecific distress in an effort to maximize the ability to discriminate cases of serious mental illness (SMI) from non-cases.

K10 Printable PDF

You can create a free account on PsyPack to access fillable PDFs, manuals and educational resources for the K10

K10 Scoring and Interpretation

The K10 scoring system is based on responses of “1-5” (where 5= ”all of the time” and 1= ”none of the time”) and the scores are summed. This system results in a score range of 10-50 for the K10.

Please note that the question is presented to respondents in the order of highest frequency to none, but for scoring, you should recode, so that 1 indicates no stress and 5 indicates high stress.

K10 Score and Likelihood of having a mental disorder (psychological distress)

Table 4
K10 ScoreLikelihood of having a mental disorder (psychological distress)


Likely to be well


Likely to have a mild disorder


Likely to have a moderate disorder


Likely to have a severe disorder

PsyPack can automatically score the K10 assessment and prepare corresponding tables and graphs.

K10 sample result

Further, PsyPack automatically plots a graph to help you easily track progress over time.

K10 track progress

Sample Report of K10


Psychological Distress

What does K10 measure

The purpose of the evaluation is to:

  • screen for psychological distress,
  • identify levels of distress,
  • discriminate cases of serious mental illness (SMI) from non-cases, and
  • complement the dimensional assessments of non-specific impairment, such as the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF).



Type of outcome tool


Assessment modes


Age and eligibility

11 years and above

Estimated time

2 to 3 minutes


Since the questionnaire relies on client self-report, all responses should be verified by the clinician, and a definitive diagnosis is made on clinical grounds taking into account how well the client understood the questionnaire, as well as other relevant information from the client.

This is a screening instrument and practitioners should make a clinical judgement as to whether a person needs treatment.

Scores usually decline with effective treatment. Patients whose scores remain above 24 after treatment should be reviewed and specialist referral considered.

The K10 cannot be used to determine major mental illnesses (such as psychoses) but has been validated as a simple measure of anxiety, depression and worry (psychological distress).

For other questions that are routinely administered along with the scales to learn about persistence and impairment, please refer to Kessler Psychological Distress Scale 10+ (K10+).

For interviewer administration and interview training notes, please refer to Interviewer Administered K10+.

Attribution and References

Kessler, R.C., Barker, P.R., Colpe, L.J., Epstein, J.F., Gfroerer, J.C., Hiripi, E., Howes, M.J, Normand, S-L.T., Manderscheid, R.W., Walters, E.E., Zaslavsky, A.M. (2003). Screening for serious mental illness in the general population Archives of General Psychiatry. 60(2), 184-189.