York Sociology Seminar Series
The DASS-21 (DASS) is a self-report questionnaire, measuring depression, anxiety and stress across three 7-point scales. The respondent assesses the extent to which 21 statements applied to them in the previous week, on a 4-point Likert scale. The first statement is ‘I found it hard to wind down’. The last is ‘I felt that life was meaningless’.
Originating in Australia, the DASS has been translated into 56 languages and is used all over the world. Activation of the DASS does not require clinical training. Use of the form is recommended as a supplement to clinical interviewing. In practice, it is applied in a wide range of contexts (such as youth work and antenatal care), usually as a screening tool rather than a precursor to clinical interviews.
The DASS mediates psychic and organizational life. It inserts a standardized sequence into the care encounter, configuring case pathways and workflows across discrepant sites. Preformatting the client as commensurable scores, the DASS enables ranking by ‘severity’. Aggregated DASS data affords mapping of spatial and demographic distributions of ‘negative emotional states’, rendering these amenable to view.
Where major depression is expected to become the most disabling disease by 2030, the use of instruments like the DASS-21 is likely to increase. The DASS, however, also sits on a border, between paper-based and computational datafication, a precursor technology at the dawn of commercial algorithmic psychometrics. Arising from a specific logic of evaluation, the DASS casts light back on the aspirations and values of public health administration, and forward on the prospects of privatized mental health surveillance.
Snacks and drink will be provided based on Bring Your Own Cup policy.