Holmes & Rahe (1967) created a social readjustment rating scale (SRRS), in which different life events result in different stress scores. Indeed, SRRS is one of the most well-known and researched measures of life event stress (Crandall, 1992).
If one has a score of 150 or below on the SRRS, then the risk of developing stress is 30%, whereas 150-299 units are equivalent to a 50% chance. If one has a score of 300 or above, the chance is as high as 80 %. Both negative as well as positive life events may lead to increased stress.
One should note that people’s personalities and coping styles vary, and some people may not find some life events as stressful as others. Some people may even benefit from stress (see eustress).
The stress scores therefore only serve as a “guide”. The following stressful life events share the features that that they are unpredictable and require a significant life change. Taken together, it seems that some stressors are intrinsically more stressful than others, but how stressful they really are depend on how they are perceived by the individual.
There are some methodological limitations with respect to the study that the SRRS was based upon. For example, the study design was based on self-report measures, and the sample was a convenience sample, meaning that it was not randomized in any way.
Also, only 394 participants were involved so they might not represent the general population. However, the stress scores across participants were significantly correlated, meaning that different life events seem to affect people in more or less similar ways.
Life event + stress score (out of 100), ordered by ranks.
- Death of spouse = 100
- Divorce = 73
- Marital separation from mate = 65
- Detention in jail or other institution = 63
- Death of a close family member = 63
- Major personal injury or illness = 53
- Marriage = 50
- Being fired from work = 47
- Marital reconciliation with mate = 45
- Retirement from work = 45
- Major change in the health or behavior of a family member = 44
- Pregnancy = 40
- Sexual difficulties = 39
- Gaining a new family member = 39
- Major business readjustment = 39
- Major change in financial state = 38
- Death of a close friend = 37
- Changing to a different line of work = 36
- Major change in the number of arguments with spouse = 35
- Taking on a mortgage or loan less than 810,000 = 31
- Foreclosure on a mortgage or loan = 30
- Son or daughter leaving home = 29
- In-law troubles = 29
- Outstanding personal achievement = 28
- Beginning or ceasing formal schooling = 27
- Wife beginning or ceasing work outside the home = 26
- Change in residence = 25
- Major change in living conditions = 25
- Revision of personal habits = 24
- Troubles with the boss = 23
- Major change in responsibilities at work = 20
- Major change in working hours or conditions = 20
- Changing to a new school = 20
- Major change in religious activities = 19
- Major change in usual type and/or amount of recreation = 19
- Major change in social activities = 18
- Taking on a mortgage greater than $10,000 = 17
- Major change in sleeping habits = 16
- Major change in eating habits = 15
- Major change in number of family get-togethers = 15
- Vacation = 13
- Christmas = 12
- Minor violations of the law = 11