Sense of emptiness: development and validation of a scale
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Sense of emptiness is a common human experience and a prevalent mental health issue, included as a diagnostic criterion and/or associated with several mental health disorders. Despite its prevalence and clinical relevance, clinicians are still in need of a clear and consistent way of understanding and assessing this phenomenon, as there has been limited empirical research concerning this topic. Therefore, the present study focused on the development and validation of a measure, Multidimensional Sense of Emptiness Scale [MSES], to provide researchers and mental health practitioners with a method to accurately assess and diagnose mental health issues associated with emptiness. The initial step of this study was to explore the factorial structure of the emerging instrument within a sample of 405 college students, using principle axis factoring with a direct oblimin rotation. This analysis resulted in the emergence of a four-factor solution, explaining 91.18 % of the variance: (a) Sense of Inner Emptiness [SIE], (b) Sense of Meaninglessness [SM], (c) Sense of Absence of Relatedness [SAR], and (d) Sense of Spiritual Emptiness [SSE]. The next step was to examine the internal consistency reliability coefficients of the MSES and the emerged subscales. Reliability estimates of .98, .98, .97, .98, and .97 were for the MSES as well as for the SIE, the SM, the SAR, and the SSE, respectively. With regard to establishing evidence based on relations to other variables, student scores on the MSES correlated significantly with the Suicide Probability Scale. In addition, statistically significant negative relationships were found between scores on the MSES and the Brief Resilience Scale, the Adult Trait Hope Scale, and the Meaning in Life Questionnaire. The results derived from our psychometric evaluation provide a basis for conceptualizing emptiness as a multidimensional experience as well as indicate substantial utility of the 27-item MSES in counseling research and clinical practice as a valid and reliable instrument for assessing young adults’ levels of experienced emptiness. Further, we believe the high correlation identified between the MSES and the SPS allows this new instrument to be considered for suicide screening and assessment as a marker for suicide attempts.