Testing the Approach to Dividing Psychological Distress Index SCL-9-NR into Criterial Levels





psychological distress, SCL-9-NR, index, social research, classification


The article discusses the methodic SCL-9-NR as a sociological test for measuring psychological distress level (the author is S. Dembitskyi). It is an adapted and validated version of the SCL-90-R is developed by L. Derogatis. Psychological distress index is a total score of the respondent answers to SCL-9-NR items. Its values vary from 0 to 27. S. Dembitskyi also proposes dividing the psychological distress index into criterial levels. Thus it is created an ordinal categorical variable that characterizes the respondent’s distress level and consists of three value labels: normal (psychological distress index values vary from 0 to 12), increased (psychological distress index values vary from 13 to 16) and high (psychological distress index values are 17 or more). Criterial levels are established empirically and based on the results of five studies conducted in 2015-2017. But the question is whether such division of the psychological distress index can be considered reasonable.

To test the approach to dividing the psychological distress index into criterial levels an alternative classification (LCA classification) is constructed using the latent class analysis. Then we compare the LCA classification with the division psychological distress index into criterial levels (classification by criterial levels). Both classifications are correlated, but they cannot be called similar. In particular, the LCA classification fails to correctly classify respondents with an increased distress level. Respondents with normal and high distress levels are mostly classified correctly. In addition, we can guess that the SCL-9-NR items may have different weights. This is not taken into account during the calculating of the psychological distress index of  and its division into criterial levels. So we not only need to create an alternative classification of respondents by the distress level, but also need to calculate psychological distress index in a different way taking into account the different weights of the SCL-9-NR items.


Dembitskyi, S. (2016). Express test SCL-9-NR: evaluation method of psychological distress expressiveness for mass surveys. Sociology: Theory, Methods, Marketing, 1, 52–64.

Dembitskyi, S. (2017). Determination principles of the criterial levels of the sociological test. Ukrainian society, 4(63), 22–34. https://doi.org/10.15407/socium2017.04.022

Dembitskyi, S. (2019). Development of sociological tests: methodology and practice of its application. Institute of Sociology NAS of Ukraine.

Dembitskyi, S. (2022). Psychological distress index SCL-9-NR. In Ye. Golovakha & S. Dembitskyi (Eds.), Complex measurement tools in sociological research: development, adaptation, substantiation of reliability (pp. 292–330). Institute of Sociology NAS of Ukraine.

Dembitskyi, S. S., Zlobina, O. G., Sydorov, M. V. S., & Mamonova, H. A. (2020). The state of psychological distress among various social groups in Ukraine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ukrainian society, 2(73), 74–92. https://doi.org/10.15407/socium2020.02.074

Derogatis, L., & Fitzpatrick, M. (2004). SCL-90-R, the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), and the BSI-18. In M. E. Maruish (Eds.), The use of psychological testing for treatment planning and outcomes assessment, vol. 3: Instruments for adults (pp.1–42). New Jersey, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associated Publishers.

R Core Team (2021). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. https://www.R-project.org/

Ridner, S. H. (2004). Psychological distress: concept analysis. Journal of advanced nursing, 45(5), 536–545. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.2003.02938.x

Sereda, Y., & Dembitskyi, S. (2016). Validity assessment of the symptom checklist SCL-90-R and shortened versions for the general population in Ukraine. BMC psychiatry, 16(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-016-1014-3

UNiDOS Reports (2023). Retrieved December 19, 2023 from http://unidos.univ.kiev.ua/?q=uk/zvity_pro_do¬sli-dzhennya

Weller, B. E., Bowen, N. K., & Faubert, S. J. (2020). Latent Class Analysis: A Guide to Best Practice. Journal of Black Psychology, 46(4), 287–311. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798420930932






Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 > >>