Life Changes and Stress

When we face changes in life, we experience stress.  A moderate amount of stress can be a good thing.  It can cause us to “be on our toes” so to speak.  In other words, it can improve our performance and attention to things that are important to attend to.  A stress-free life might be interesting in fantasy, but I’m not sure any of us would really want this in our lives.  A moderate amount of stress can make us stretch our capacities and grow stronger.  Severe and long-term stress can lead to a number of health and emotional problems.

Take a look at the Holmes and Rahe stress scale below.  Check each item that have occurred in your life in the past year to get an idea about your ongoing stress level.  The higher your score, the more important it is for you to find healthy ways to manage your stress for your physical and emotional health.

Research by Holmes and Rahe’s(1) suggest the following for interpreting your scores:

Score of 300+: At risk of illness.  Nearly 80% will develop a physical illness in the near future.

Score of 150-299+: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk).  Approximately 50 percent will become ill in the near future.

Score of less than 150-: Only have a slight risk of illness.  Approximately 30% will become ill in the near future.

Life event Life change units
Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Imprisonment 63
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain a new family member 39
Business readjustment 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family reunions 15
Change in eating habits 15
Vacation 13
Christmas 12
Minor violation of law 11


(1) Holmes TH, Rahe RH (1967). “The Social Readjustment Rating Scale”. J Psychosom Res 11 (2): 213–8. DOI:10.1016/0022-3999(67)90010-4PMID 6059863.