State-trait anxiety inventory (A guide)

In this guide, we will discuss the state-trait anxiety inventory (STAI), what it is, what it measures, specifications and a sample of the test. 

The State-trait anxiety inventory: What is it?

The state-trait anxiety inventory or STAI is a widely accepted measure of trait and state anxiety elaborated by Spielberger and collaborators in 1983.

It is used in clinical settings for the diagnosis of anxiety and to differentiate it from depressive syndromes.

It is also used by researchers as an indicator of caregiver distress (APA).

State-trait anxiety inventory (A guide)

The main purpose of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory is to measure through self-report the presence of current manifestation of anxiety symptoms and a propensity to be anxious.

They can be applied to both adults and children.

Background of state and trait anxiety

The concept of state and trait anxiety was introduced by R.B. Cattel which was adopted subsequently by Spielberger (1996, 1972, 1976, 1979).

It has been considered that personality states and emotional states may be regarded as temporary (at a given moment in time) in the life span of an individual. 

The emotional states are regarded as existent in a given moment and experienced with particular intensity on the contrary “Anxiety states are characterized by subjective feelings of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry, and by activation or arousal of the autonomic nervous system” (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for adults Manual, 1983).

Atkinson (1964) refers to personality traits as “motives” and Campbell (1963) as “acquired behavioral positions”. Atkinson defines “motives” as tendencies acquired in childhood that get “activated” when the situation or context required it and for Campbell, the acquired dispositional concepts involve past experiences that involves a particular way in which individual views and perceives the world (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for adults Manual, 1983).


Description and Applications of the STAI

It has been used extensively in research and clinical practice. Based on the definition given earlier about trait anxiety, the STAI S-Anxiety scale evaluates feelings of apprehension, tension, nervousness, and worry in the present moment or “right now”.

The T-Anxiety scale has twenty statements that represent how people generally feel. 

This scale has been used extensively to assess the level of S-Anxiety derived from experimental procedures and the exposure of real-life stressors such as imminent surgery, dental treatment, job interviews, or important school tests. 

The second scale, STAI T-Anxiety, has been used in assessing clinical anxiety in medical, surgical, psychosomatic and psychiatric patients and it has been found that psychoneurotic and depressed patients score higher on this scale.

It has been also widely used as a screening test for high school and college students and military recruits. 

Additionally, has been used as a quantitative measure to determine the effectiveness of a certain psychotherapy, counseling, behavior modification or drug treatment program.

Meaning, the difference between pre-test scores and post-test scores should differ, allowing to see if the treatment applied after the pre-test had a positive effect on reducing anxiety levels. 

Content of the inventory

 This measure contains 2 scales, the first scale is the State Anxiety Scale (S-Anxiety) meant to evaluate the current state of anxiety, asking the person taking the test to how they feel at the present moment, using items that measure subjective feelings of apprehension, tension, nervousness, worry, and activation/arousal of the autonomic nervous system. 

The second scale is the Trait Anxiety Scale (T-Anxiety).

This scale evaluates relatively stable aspects of being prone to anxiety or to be anxious including general states of calmness, confidence, and security.

Number of Items

The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory has 40 items divided into two scales, S-Anxiety and T-Anxiety (20 items each).

The children’s version or STAIC has the same number of items.

Some short versions of the scales have been developed independently as it is the case of researchers from the Institute of psychology of the University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary, and Departments of Psychiatry, Genetics & Psychology, Washington University, St. Louis, USA, who have developed their own short version. 

State-trait anxiety inventory (A guide)

What are the response options?

The S-Anxiety scale assesses the intensity of the current feelings in terms of the present moment as:

  1. Not at all
  2. Somewhat
  3. Moderately so
  4. Very much so

The responses for the T-Anxiety scale measures the frequency of the feelings in general terms:

  1. Almost never
  2. Sometimes
  3. Often 
  4. Almost always

How is the STAI applied?

This self-report questionnaire is administered through paper and pencil individually or in groups, and specific instructions are provided for each of the subscales.

It takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. 

Scoring and interpretation

Item scores are added to obtain subtest total scores. Scoring should be reversed for anxiety-absent items (19 items of the total 40).

The score range for each subtest is 20-80, the higher score indicating anxiety.

The cut point of 39-40 has been suggested to detect clinically significant symptoms for the S-Anxiety scale. 

Reliability and Validity

Spielberg’s studies on test-retest correlations were calculated to be .54 for the state section and .86 for the trait section.  

According to the American Psychological Association “Internal consistency coefficients for the scale have ranged from .86 to .95; test-retest reliability coefficients ranged from .65 to .75 over a 2-month interval (Spielberger et al, 1983). Test-retest coefficients for this measure in the present study ranged from .69 to .89. Considerable evidence attests to the construct and concurrent validity of the scale (Spielberger, 1989)”. 

Other adaptations and languages

The STAI has been adapted to 48 languages.

Other tests that measure anxiety

Anxiety can be also measured with:

  • Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)
  • Hospital Anxiety and depression scale-anxiety (HADS-A)

How to obtain the STAI?

You can obtain the STAI from the publisher Mind Garden, 855 Oak Grove Avenue, Suite 215, Menlo Park, CA 94025 or by clicking here.

State-trait anxiety inventory (A guide)

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Sample test

Copyrights belong to Charles D. Spielberger and the Publisher Mind Garden.

This has no commercial intent, it is meant for educational purposes only. 

Self-Evaluation Questionnaire STAI Form Y-1

Instructions: A number of statements which people have used to describe themselves are given below.

Read each statement and then circle the appropriate number to the right of the statement to indicate how you feel right now, that is, at this moment.

There are no right or wrong answers.

Do not spend too much time on any of the statements but give the answer which seems to describe your present feelings best. 

  1. I feel Calm………………………………………… Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel secure……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I am tense……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel strained……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel at ease……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel upset……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I am presently worrying over possible misfortunes…………………………………………Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel satisfied……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel frightened……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel comfortable……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel self-confident……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel nervous ……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I am jittery……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel indecisive……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I am relaxed……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel content……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I am worried……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel confused……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel steady……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

  1. I feel pleasant……………………………………….. Not at all (1)

    Somewhat  (2)

    Moderately so (3)  

    Very much so (4)

The scores in this part would correspond to the S-Anxiety scale. If you would like to answer this questionnaire and see how is your anxiety measures using the Scoring Key click here. 

State-trait anxiety inventory (A guide)

Why is this blog about State-Trait Anxiety important?

It is important to be aware of the extensive research there is and the efforts that have been made to understand and measure in the most accurate way what we understand by anxiety. 

Yes, it is a quantitative way of determining “how much” anxiety you are experiencing at a given moment in time and as such, it is very difficult to determine in a number the real amount of anxiety or the level. 

Still, it is highly effective assessing anxiety as a construct and it is highly regarded by the mental health professionals that use it so they can determine if someone is suffering from a mild or severe case of anxiety and start a treatment plan. 

Please feel free to comment on the content of “State-Trait Anxiety” in the comments section down below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory 

What does the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory measure?

The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) measures anxiety based on a 4 point Likert scale, consisting of 40 questions that correspond to the measures of 2 scales (20 items each).

Higher scores are correlated with higher anxiety levels. 

What is Trait Anxiety?

Trait anxiety refers to a stable tendency in time to experience and report emotions perceived as negative  (fears, worries, and anxiety) across various situations. 

What is the difference between state and trait anxiety?

The difference between state and trait anxiety is related to time.

State anxiety reflects a transient reaction to difficult situations in a specific moment in time and trait anxiety refers to a personality trait that describes individual differences related to a tendency to present state anxiety.

What is the Beck Anxiety Inventory used for?

The Beck Anxiety Inventory is also used to measure anxiety.

It is a 21 multiple choice questionnaire used for measuring the severity of anxiety in both children and adults. 

Can you measure anxiety?

Yes, there are several validated tools that have proven to measure anxiety in the most accurate way possible.

These have based their items according to commonalities in physiological responses and behaviors among different groups of people. 

Recommended reading

  1. State-trait anxiety inventory for adults: Sampler set : manual, test, scoring key
  2. State-trait anxiety inventory for children: ( ” how I feel questionnaire ” )
  3. Manual for the state/trait anxiety inventory (form Y): self evaluation questionnaire
  4. STAIC preliminary manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children ( ” How I Feel Questionnaire ” ) 
  5. State-Trait anxiety inventory (Form Y)

What we recommend for curbing Anxiety

Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety

Anxiety Weighted Blankets

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References 

Julian, L.J (2011). Measures of anxiety: State‐Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale‐Anxiety (HADS‐A)

American Psychological Association: The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI)

State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Adults: Manual, Instrument and scoring guide

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