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Using single items to measure job stressors

Stephanie Gilbert (Department of Psychology, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
E. Kevin Kelloway (Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Article publication date: 2 September 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine whether single-item measures of job stressor facets were as valid as multiple-item measures in predicting psychological strain. Single-item measures are more time and cost efficient than multiple-item measures and may also have psychometric benefits.


Data from 3,166 hospital employees were used to evaluate the validity of 11 single-item job stressor facet measures by applying five criteria for content and criterion validity.


Based on this data, six single-item measures of job stressors met all criteria, supporting their use as single-item facet measures.

Research limitations/implications

The use of a sample of employees from one female-dominated industry may limit the generalizability of the results to other industries. Future research should replicate the results of the current study in other industries and use longitudinal designs to examine the predictive validity of the single-item measures. Future studies may also develop single-item measures of each facet a priori and examine their validity.

Practical implications

Results support the use of single-item measures for the assessment of significance, recognition, workload, work-family conflict, skill use, and coworker relations, which can be included in research where a shorter survey is necessary. These six measures may facilitate more frequent assessment of job stressors, the assessment of job stressors as control variables, and the assessment of multiple job stressors simultaneously, while still minimizing survey space and cost.


This is the first study to examine the validity of single-item measures of job stressors, which is a construct that is frequently assessed in organizations.



A previous version of this manuscript was presented at the 2011 Work Stress and Health Conference. The authors thank Arla Day, Aaron Schat, and Julian Barling for their comments on the manuscript and gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Gilbert, S. and Kevin Kelloway, E. (2014), "Using single items to measure job stressors", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 186-199.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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