AIM: To develop a new stress scale and use it for investigating impact of ethnicity on perception of stress. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: One thousand one hundred and twenty-four students (grades 6-9) from 14 schools filled in a questionnaire at school with questions about age, sex, use of language at home (proxy for cultural background), stress and stressors. Factor analysis and analysis of variance were used to analyze the data. RESULTS: Two-stress dimensions were identified, 'pressure'(7 items, Cronbach's alpha 0.862) and 'activation'(4 items, Cronbach's alpha 0.767). Scores on the two scales and a separate 'stress' item were higher in girls and increased with grade. Use of another language than Swedish at home showed a significant effect only for activation, with lower scores in girls. The interaction effect between sex and language was significant for all variables and was due mainly to lower stress in girls using another language than Swedish at home. CONCLUSION: This new stress scale has some promising qualities like a condensed format, basis in a specific stress concept and formulated to be as age and culture independent as possible. Immigrant girls seem to perceive less stress than Swedish born girls, which opens up for questions about protective mechanisms.