The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale

A Self-Assessment to Understand the Impact of Long-Term Stress

The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale - A Self-Assessment to Understand the Impact of Long-Term Stress

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Do you need to take a step back?

How much stress are you under? And is it enough to make you ill?

Your ability to handle the demands upon you is key to your experience of stress. So if several difficulties arise at once, the stress can quickly ramp up.

For example, starting a new job might be a challenging but manageable experience if everything else in your life is stable and positive. But if it happens when you've just moved into a new house, or when your partner is ill, for example, you might find it very hard to cope.

The full impact of stress can be difficult to predict, since not all unusual events are equally hard to deal with.

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) – more commonly known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale – is a self-assessment tool for measuring the total stress you're experiencing. It can also help you to respond effectively to whatever stresses you face. [1] We've created an interactive version of it, below.

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale) was developed in 1967 by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. They decided to study the links between stress and illness. They examined the medical records of more than 5,000 patients, and focused specifically on 43 common life events.

They asked people which of these events (called Life Change Units, or LCUs) they'd experienced in the previous two years. That allowed Holmes and Rahe to work out the relative "weights" of different types of stress.

It also showed them the point at which someone's combined stress load was likely to put them at risk.

Note:

Some major life or career events that are generally considered to be "happy," such as marriage, or "neutral/ambiguous," such as a change of job, can still add to stress. Find out how to manage the stress involved with these types of transitions with our article, The Change Curve.

What Does the Holmes and Rahe Scale Measure?

To score your stress levels, simply decide whether each of the events in the Statements column has happened to you in the last year, selecting Yes or No. Then click Calculate My Total.

This table is taken from 'The Social Readjustment Rating Scale,' Thomas H. Holmes and Richard H. Rahe, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Volume 11, Issue 2, August 1967, pages 213-218. Copyright © 1967. Published by Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce granted by the publisher.

This scale must not be used in any way to cause harm to an individual's professional career.

Your last quiz results are shown.

You last completed this quiz on , at .

43 Statements to Answer

Yes No
1 Death of spouse (100)
2 Divorce (73)
3 Marital separation (65)
4 Jail term (63)
5 Death of close family member (63)
6 Personal injury or illness (53)
7 Marriage (50)
8 Fired at work (47)
9 Marital reconciliation (45)
10 Retirement (45)
11 Change in health of family member (44)
12 Pregnancy (40)
13 Sex difficulties (39)
14 Gain of new family member (39)
15 Business readjustment (39)
16 Change in financial state (38)
17 Death of close friend (37)
18 Change to a different line of work (36)
19 Change in number of arguments with spouse (35)
20 A large mortgage or loan (31)
21 Foreclosure of mortgage or loan (30)
22 Change in responsibilities at work (29)
23 Son or daughter leaving home (29)
24 Trouble with in-laws (29)
25 Outstanding personal achievement (28)
26 Spouse begins or stops work (26)
27 Begin or end school/college (26)
28 Change in living conditions (25)
29 Revision of personal habits (24)
30 Trouble with boss (23)
31 Change in work hours or conditions (20)
32 Change in residence (20)
33 Change in school/college (20)
34 Change in recreation (19)
35 Change in church activities (19)
36 Change in social activities (18)
37 A moderate loan or mortgage (17)
38 Change in sleeping habits (16)
39 Change in number of family get-togethers (15)
40 Change in eating habits (15)
41 Vacation (13)
42 Christmas (12)
43 Minor violations of the law (11)
Total = 0

Note: If you experienced the same event more than once, then to gain a more accurate total, add the score again for each extra occurrence of the event.

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
11-150

You have only a low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the near future.

150-299

You have a moderate to high chance of becoming ill in the near future.

300-600

You have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future.

What to Do About Your Stress Scale Score

If you find that you're at a moderate or high level of risk, then an obvious first thing to do is to try to avoid future life crises.

While this is clearly easier said than done, you can usually avoid moving house, for example, close to when you retire, or when one of your children goes off to college. Or you can learn conflict resolution skills to minimize conflict with other people.

Of course, there are situations that you can't simply avoid. But you can explore what you can do to control, influence, or accept and adapt in such circumstances. See our article, Overwhelmed at Work, for more on this. And for more on reducing stress, visit the Stress Tools area of Mind Tools.

Is the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale Valid?

Some critics have suggested that the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is weak in certain areas. For instance, some believe that different cultural groups react differently to different life events.

In one example of this, a study compared American and Malaysian participants. Interestingly, the Malaysians' attitudes toward breaking the law and toward relationships were different overall from those of the Americans studied, meaning that their experience of stress was different, even though they had the same score. [2]

So keep cultural differences in mind as you score your own life events.

Warning:

Stress can cause severe health problems and, in extreme cases, death. While these stress-management techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing stress, they are for guidance only, and readers should take the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they have any concerns over stress-related illnesses, or if stress is causing significant or persistent unhappiness. Health professionals should also be consulted before any major change in diet or levels of exercise.

Key Points

The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is a well-known tool for measuring the amount of stress you've experienced recently. Taking the test can help you to see if you're at risk of illness due to the combined stress you face.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (747)
  • Over a month ago Sonia_H wrote
    Hi newportkitty,

    I like your observations. With your example of getting married, some stressors come because we want to please so many people. (Been there!) Awareness is essential.

    ~Sonia
    Mind Tools Coach
  • Over a month ago newportkitty wrote
    I don't actually feel as stressed as the test indicated I should! It is interesting though how even good things like getting married can be big stressors. I believe you have to take care of your well being to work with children. You can't be at work with children and in a bad mood. It's not fair to them.
  • Over a month ago Sonia_H wrote
    Hi MarieHibbs,

    We're glad that this resource helped you identify some focus areas. Of course, everyone who completes this assessment will have a unique score. Thanks for sharing!

    ~Sonia
    Mind Tools Team
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