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What methods are available for collecting data on a human's stress levels?

That is, suppose someone wanted to collect weekly/daily/hourly readings of their stress levels (e.g. in order to use the data to correlate with their activities, reporting, or other reasons) - what methods could someone use?

Such data could be very useful for those overcoming chronic stress.

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    $\begingroup$ We are unable to give (an sort of) personalised medical/psychiatric advice (or recommendations for commercial products or treatments) here for legal and other reasons explained here. Please seek advice from a qualified medical professional near you. $\endgroup$ Jan 22 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt.I made some edits to take out any personal details and make it general. I think it's a wonderful question; one that sounds like it would have obvious answers, but things that pop into my head (e.g. blood pressure readings?) are probably factoids rather than facts. $\endgroup$
    – stevec
    Jan 23 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ @stevec Thank you so much for the wonderful edit! Appreciate it! $\endgroup$
    – brikas
    Jan 23 at 8:36
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    $\begingroup$ We work differently to many SE sites, where we have a strict policy that all questions should show evidence of prior research. Please help us to help you and edit your question to provide more information on what you have read on this subject, what made you ask this question, and any problems you are having understanding your research. If you found nothing, what did you Google? This helps to provide an answer which will be more helpful. $\endgroup$ Jan 23 at 10:50

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TL;DR: measure your 'Heart Rate Variability' with a smartphone app or wearable device


The longer answer is more complicated. This meta analysis suggests:

At present, there is no accepted standard for stress evaluation.

Biometrics

Heart Rate Variability

This study concluded that:

the current neurobiological evidence suggests that HRV is impacted by stress and supports its use for the objective assessment of psychological health and stress.

So Heart Rate Variability could be a useful biometric indicator. However, this study says that many things can cause high HRV:

stress, poor sleep, unhealthy diet, dysfunctional relationships, isolation or solitude, and lack of exercise

so it's possible your HRV could go up independent of your stress levels (so use with caution).

Harvard Health suggests how to measure HRV:

The gold standard is to analyze a long strip of an electrocardiogram done in the doctor’s office. But in recent years, companies have launched apps and wearable heart rate monitors that do something similar.

Other biometric indicators

The University College London measured stress levels in experiment participants by using:

  • Pupal dilation
  • Perspiration

so these may be possibilities too.

Perceived Stress Scale

There is an old fashioned way... the Perceived Stress Scale was:

published in 1983, and has become one of the most widely used psychological instruments for measuring nonspecific perceived stress. It has been used in studies assessing the stressfulness of situations, the effectiveness of stress-reducing interventions, and the extent to which there are associations between psychological stress and psychiatric and physical disorders.

Here's a copy of the actual test. The result can be interpreted with detailed scoring:

enter image description here

or, using these rules of thumb:

► Scores ranging from 0-13 would be considered low stress.

► Scores ranging from 14-26 would be considered moderate stress.

► Scores ranging from 27-40 would be considered high perceived stress.

It looks like a test you would take approximately monthly.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. Highly appreciate the links to sources. I knew about PSS, but was looking for a more objective biological measurement. My phone just happens to have a heartrate scanner. However, it seems that only the Samsung Health app is able to utilize and it's unclear how does it measure 'stress', by measuring heart rate and oxygen levels. optimistminds.com/how-does-samsung-health-measure-stress A wearable may be needed to measure it. $\endgroup$
    – brikas
    Jan 23 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @brikas no problemo. I learned a lot doing this. I think HRV might be the most widely agreed upon metric. I downloaded a free app and tried it, and was very surprised that my phone could do all that in about 30 seconds! Very cool. Don't forget HRV is different to simply heart rate. HRV measures the variations in time between heartbeats. $\endgroup$
    – stevec
    Jan 23 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ I read about HRV, so I know how to interpret now. Sounds good! However, I still have one question. Does it measure overall stress or stress at the moment? I mean if I measure it every day, I may be unconsciously inclined to measure it when I am feeling stressed even though the rest of the day was pretty calm. In case when overall stress level needs to measured, not a one at the moment, would the PSS be superior? I guess I could also measure it 3 times and at preset times, but that kind of complicates things puts a bunch of responsibility for consistency. I like staying lite. $\endgroup$
    – brikas
    Jan 23 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ @brikas that's true, but it's better to have some data than none, right? I reached out to a biohacking group I'm part of and some of the members have wearables: a ring, which I think would take constant HR/HRV measures. I would guess some smart watches would do that too. If these wearables measure all day long, that should be very consistent. $\endgroup$
    – stevec
    Jan 23 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ @svevec. I googled and I found the ring tracker and that looks incredible from the description, but a bit too expensive for me. I have also looked into chest straps which are a bit less convenient but cheaper and could provide a good way to measure it. Thanks again for the answer! $\endgroup$
    – brikas
    Jan 23 at 14:17

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