Berlin Social-Support Scales (BSSS)

(Originally designed for Coping with Cancer Surgery Settings)

Ralf Schwarzer & Ute Schulz, 2000

 Freie Universität Berlin, Abteilung für Gesundheitspsychologie

Following are 5 psychometric scales that are being used in current research on coping with illness.

1. Perceived Available Support


1.   There are some people who truly like me.

2.   Whenever I am not feeling well, other people show me that they are fond of me.

3.   Whenever I am sad, there are people who cheer me up.

4.   There is always someone there for me when I need comforting.


5.   I know some people upon whom I can always rely.

6.   When I am worried, there is someone who helps me.

7.   There are people who offer me help when I need it.

8.   When everything becomes too much for me to handle, others are there to help me.


2. Need for Support

     1.   When I am down, I need someone who boosts my spirits.

2.   It is important for me always to have someone who listens to me.

3.   Before making any important decisions, I absolutely need a second opinion.

4.   I get along best without any outside help. (-)


3. Support Seeking

     1.   In critical situations, I prefer to ask others for their advice.

2.   Whenever I am down, I look for someone to cheer me up again.

3.   When I am worried, I reach out to someone to talk to.

4.   If I do not know how to handle a situation, I ask others what they would do.

5.   Whenever I need help, I ask for it.


4. Actually Received Support (Recipient)

     Think about the person who is closest to you, such as your spouse, partner, child, friend, and so on. How did this person react to you during      the last week?

1.   This person showed me that he/she loves and accepts me. (EMO)

2.   This person was there when I needed him/her. (INST)

3.   This person comforted me when I was feeling bad. (EMO)

4.   This person left me alone. (–) (EMO)

5.   This person did not show much empathy for my situation. (–) (EMO)

6.   This person complained about me. (–) (EMO)

7.   This person took care of many things for me. (INST)

8.   This person made me feel valued and important. (EMO)

9.   This person expressed concern about my condition. (EMO)

10. This person assured me that I can rely completely on him/her. (EMO)

11. This person helped mefind something positive in my situation. (INF)

12. This person suggested activities that might distract me. (INF)

13. This person encouraged me not to give up. (EMO)

14. This person took care of things I could not manage on my own. (INST)

15. In general, I am very satisfied with the way this person behaved. (SAT)

 EMO = emotional support

INST = instrumentel support

INF = informational support

SAT = satisfaction with support

5. Provided Support (Provider)

(For a Male Patient)

 Now think about the patient. How did you interact with him during the past week?

 (Note: Negative Items have been eliminated from the 2001 Cancer Surgery Study.) 

1.   I showed him how much I cherish and accept him. (EMO)

2.   I was there when he needed me. (INST)

3.   I comforted him when he was feeling bad. (EMO)

4.   I left him alone. (EMO)

5.   I did not have much empathy for him. (–) (EMO)

6.   I criticized him. (–) (EMO)

7.   I did a lot for him. (INST)

8.   I made him feel valued and important. (EMO)

9.   I expressed my concern about his condition. (EMO)

10. I reassured him that he can rely completely on me. (EMO) 

11. I helped him find something positive in his situation. (INF)

12. I suggested an activity that might distract him. (INF)

13. I encouraged him not to give up. (EMO)

14. I took care of daily duties that he could not fulfill on his own. (INST)

     EMO = emotional support

    INST = instrumental support

    INF = informational support

6. Protective Buffering Scale - Support Provider/Support Recipient

1.   I kept all bad news from him. (him or her: we print different forms for men and women)

2.   I avoided everything that could upset him.

3.   I showed strength in his presence.

4.   I did not let him notice how bad and depressed I really felt.

5.   I avoided any criticism.

6. I pretended to be very strong, although I did not feel that way.


Selected Research on Social Support

 Schwarzer, R., & Leppin, A. (1992). Possible impact of social ties and support on morbidity and mortality. In H. O. F. Veiel & U. Baumann (Eds.), The meaning and measurement of social support (pp. 65-83). Washington, DC: Hemisphere.

Schwarzer, R., Dunkel-Schetter, C., & Kemeny, M. (1994). The multidimensional nature of received social support in gay men at risk of HIV infections and AIDS. American Journal of Community Psychology, 22(3), 319-339.

Schwarzer, R., Hahn, A., & Schröder, H. (1994). Social integration and social support in a life crisis: Effects of macrosocial change in East Germany. American Journal of Community Psychology, 22(5), 685-706.

Schwarzer, R., Jerusalem, M., & Hahn, A. (1994). Unemployment, social support and health complaints: A longitudinal study of stress in East German refugees. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 4, 31-45.

Burke, R. J., Greenglass, E. R., & Schwarzer, R. (1996). Predicting teacher burnout over time: Effects of work stress, social support, and self-doubts on burnout and its consequences. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping: An International Journal, 9, 261-275.

Schröder, K., Schwarzer, R., & Endler, N. S. (1997). Predicting cardiac patients' quality of life from the characteristics of their spouses. Journal of Health Psychology, 2(2), 231-244.

Schröder, K., Schwarzer, R., & Konertz, W. (1998). Coping as a mediator in recovery from cardiac surgery. Psychology and Health, 13, 83-97. 

Schulz U & Schwarzer R. Soziale Unterstützung bei der Krankheitsbewältigung. Die Berliner Social Support Skalen

            (BSSS) [Social support in coping with illness: The Berlin Social Support Scales (BSSS)]. Diagnostica. 2003; 49: 73-82.

 Schulz U & Schwarzer R. Long-term effects of spousal support on coping with cancer after surgery. Journal of Social

            and Clinical Psychology. 2004; 23: 716-732.

 Schwarzer R, Knoll N, & Rieckmann N. Social support. In Kaptein A & Weinman J, editors. Health Psychology.

    2004, Oxford, England: Blackwell: p. 158-182.

 Schwarzer R & Leppin A. Social support and health: A theoretical and empirical overview. Journal of Social and

    Personal Relationships. 1991; 8:99-127.

  Other psychometric scales                                                                                          

 Health Psychology Resources