Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ)

The PSWQ is a 16-item self-report scale designed to measure the trait of worry in adults. Worry is regarded as a dominant feature of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). The scale measures the excessiveness, generality, and uncontrollable dimensions of worry.

The PSWQ has been found to distinguish patients with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) from other anxiety disorders. This questionnaire can be used in clinical and non-clinical settings as a screening and diagnosis instrument.

Validity and Reliability 

The PSWQ has been validated in student (Meyer, Miller, Metzger, & Borkovec 1990) and clinical samples (Brown, Antony, & Barlow, 1992). This research demonstrated that those with GAD have significantly higher PSWQ scores than people with other anxiety disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Scores on the PSWQ are positively correlated with other measures of pervasive worry (Gillis, Haaga, & Ford, 1995). The PWSQ has high internal consistency and good test-retest reliability.

Means and standard deviations for three samples are shown below, and can be used to compute percentiles.

1 – An adult community sample (n = 244) established typical scores in the normal population (Gillis, Haaga, & Ford, 1995).
Age 18-44: M = 43.5, SD = 12.1
Age 45-65: M = 38.9, SD = 9.0

2 – A social anxiety disorder sample established typical scores with those with social anxiety (n = 132).
Mean 56.2 and SD = 14.8

3 – A GAD sample established typical scores in people diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (n = 28), (Turk, Fresco, Mennin & Heimberg (2001).
Mean = 68.1 and SD = 7.3

Scoring and Interpretation

Scores range from 16 to 80 with higher scores indicative of higher levels of trait worry. Scores can be in the following severity ranges.

  • 29 or less: Not anxious or a worrier

  • 30-52: Bothered by worries but below clinical range for worry

  • 52-65: Currently have some problems with worry and may benefit from treatment

  • 66 or more: Chronic worrier and in need of treatment to target this problem

The raw score is also converted into three percentiles comparing the total score to three different samples:

  1. An adult community percentile showing the client’s score in relation to the normal population.

  2. A social anxiety disorder percentile comparing the client’s score with those with social anxiety.

  3. A GAD percentile comparing scores to people diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder.

Percentiles are helpful in contextualising results compared to samples with known characteristics. Typically individuals with GAD will score around the 50th percentile (plus or minus 20) on the GAD percentile (which corresponds to higher percentiles on the other two percentiles).


Meyer, T. J., Miller, M. L., Metzger, R. L., & Borkovec, T. D. (1990). Development and validation of the penn state worry questionnaire. Behavior Research and Therapy, 28, 487-495.


Brown, T. A., Antony, M. M., & Barlow, D. H. (1992). Psychometric properties of the penn state worry questionnaire in a clinical anxiety disorders sample. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 30(1), 33-37. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(92)90093-V.

Gillis, M.M., Haaga, D.A. and Ford, G.T. (1995) Normative values for the Beck Anxiety Inventory, Fear Questionnaire, Penn State Worry Questionnaire, and Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 7, 450-455.

Meyer, T. J., Miller, M. L., Metzger, R. L., & Borkovec, T. D. (1990). Development and validation of the penn state worry questionnaire. Behavior Research and Therapy, 28, 487-495.

Turk, Fresco, Mennin & Heimberg (2001), Using The Penn State Worry Questionnaire To Distinguish Individuals With Generalized Anxiety Disorder From Individuals With Social Anxiety Disorder. Poster presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy, Philadelphia, PA.