Health and Medicine

Health Hazards and Risks

What are the leading causes of stress?

In 1967, when they conducted a study of the correlation between significant life events and the onset of illness, Dr. Thomas H. Holmes (1918–1989) and Dr. Richard H. Rahe (1936–) from the University of Washington compiled a chart of the major causes of stress with assigned point values. They published their findings on stress effects as “The Social Readjustment Scale,” printed in The Journal of Psychosomatic Research. The researchers calculated that a score of 150 points indicated a 50/50 chance of the respondent developing an illness or a “health change.” A score of 300 would increase the risk to 90 percent.

This type of rating scale continues to be used to help individuals determine their composite stress level within the last year. Since 1967 other researchers have adapted and modified the checklist, but the basic checklist has remained constant. Of course, many factors enter into an individual’s response to a particular event, so this scale, partially represented below, can only be used as a guide.

Event Point Value
Death of spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Jail term or death of close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Fired at work 47
Marital reconciliation or retirement 45
Pregnancy 40
Change in financial state 38
Death of close friend 37
Change in employment 36
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Trouble with boss 23
Change in work hours or conditions or  
change in residence or schools 20
Vacation 13
Christmas 12
Minor violations of the law 11


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