The degree of threat that a circumstance can represent depends on the person, among other variables. However, beyond this, the predisposition to feel anxiety is something relatively stable. Thus, in this context, the STAI has much to say as a measurement instrument.

We live in a globalized and changing society. The social demands that an individual has to face are increasing. Therefore, the increase in the presence of various manifestations of anxiety in the population is not surprising. There are currently a wide variety of instruments to measure this construct, one of the most used is the STAI (State-Trait Anxiety Questionnaire).

It is one of the first validated questionnaires in Spain to measure anxiety. In addition, it is commonly used by various psychology professionals, both in clinical practice and in research . The STAI has become a reference in the evaluation of this phenomenon and is usually used to validate other similar instruments.

What does the STAI measure?

Within the multitude of procedures available to assess anxiety, the STAI has a differential quality. It allows obtaining separate measurements of two different aspects: state anxiety and trait anxiety .

state anxiety

State anxiety is defined as a transitory emotional condition, characterized by subjective feelings of tension and apprehension , as well as hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system. It is variable and fluctuating in intensity depending on time and circumstances . It is, therefore, the manifestation of anxiety that occurs at a certain time as a reaction to a situation.

Anxiety Trait

For its part, trait anxiety is conceptualized as a relatively stable anxious propensity whereby the individual shows a tendency to perceive situations as threatening . It is an acquired behavioral disposition by which, through past experiences, the person is predisposed to interpret the world in a certain way and respond to it accordingly.

Despite having different definitions and measurement scales, both concepts are related. Those with higher Trait Anxiety also tend to have higher State Anxiety scores . This is due to the fact that their individual propensity leads them to interpret many more situations as dangerous and, therefore, raise their anxiety in them.

However, the degree to which each individual interprets a particular circumstance as threatening is different, and is closely related to their own life experiences. Therefore, obtaining information on both measurements separately can be useful in the clinical process.

STAI application

This instrument, despite being designed for evaluation in adults, can be used in adolescents in secondary and higher education . The only requirement is that they have the minimum cultural level to understand the instructions and statements. The questionnaire takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

It is in a self-assessment format, so that the person is given two separate scales aimed at measuring State Anxiety and Trait Anxiety, respectively. The individual has to read the statements and select the response option that most closely resembles their personal situation . For this, it has a Likert-type scale that goes from 0 (not at all) to 3 (a lot).

To measure State Anxiety, the subject is asked to respond based on how they feel at the present moment . Some of the statements used to evaluate this concept are:

  • I am worried now about possible future misfortunes.
  • I feel calm.
  • I am tense.

In the case of Trait Anxiety , the person has to select the answer based on how they feel  most of the time . The statements that you can find in this section are of the style:

  • I lose opportunities by not deciding soon.
  • I’m happy.
  • Disappointments affect me so much that I don’t usually forget them.

Relevance of the STAI as a test to measure anxiety

The STAI is one of the most useful and effective instruments for measuring anxiety. It has been translated into 40 languages ​​and, despite having been available in Spain for more than three decades, it is still one of the main tools used by health professionals.

Specifically, it ranks seventh among the questionnaires most used by psychologists in different countries. For all these reasons, we can conclude that the STAI is one of the most valuable and effective questionnaires both in research and in the practice of psychology .

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