SRRS - Stress of Life Events

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Holmes and Rahe (1967) developed a questionnaire called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) for identifying major stressful life events.

Each one of the 43 stressful life events was awarded a Life Change Unit depending on how traumatic it was felt to be by a large sample of participants.

A total value for stressful life events can be worked out by adding up the scores for each event experienced over a 12 month period.

If a person has less the 150 life change units they have a 30% chance of suffering from stress.

150 - 299 life change units equates to a 50% chance of suffering from stress.

Over 300 life units means a person has an 80% chance of developing a stress related illness.

Social Readjustment Rating Scale

SRRS Social Readjustment Rating Scale

Empirical Research (Rahe, 1970)

The aim of this study was to investigate whether scores on the Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) were correlated with the subsequent onset of illness.

Procedure: 2,500 male American sailors were given the SRRS to assess how many life events they had experienced in the previous 6 months. The total score on the SRRS was recorded for each participant.

Then over the following six-month tour of duty, detailed records were kept of each sailor’s health status. The recorded number of Life Change Units were correlated with the sailors’ illness scores.

Results: There was a positive correlation of +0.0118 between Life Change scores and illness scores. Although the positive correlation was small (a perfect positive correlation would be +1.00), it did indicate that there was a meaningful relationship between Life Change Units and health (this is often referred to as a statistically significant correlation). As Life Change Units increased, so did the frequency of illness.

The researchers concluded that as Life Change Units were positively correlated with illness scores, experiencing life events increased the chances of stress-related health breakdown. As the correlation was not perfect, life events cannot be the only factor in contributing to illness.

Evaluation of the SRRS

Individual Difference: The SRRS assumes that each stressor affects people the same way. Not necessarily true e.g. divorce can be amicable or even a relief.

Most 43 life changes in the SRRS aren’t everyday events.  Kanner et al (1981) has designed a Hassles Scale which are more common, e.g. losing things, traffic jams, arguments, disappointments, weight and physical appearance.

Source of Stress: Daily Hassles & Uplifts

Most people experience major life events very infrequently. Therefore a better measure of stress might look at the stresses and strains of daily life. These are called “hassles”.

Daily hassles are ‘irritating, frustrating, distressing demands that to some degree characterise everyday transactions with the environment’ (Kanner 1981) – i.e. the straw that broke the camel’s back!

DeLongis et al (1982)

There were 100 participants from around San Francisco area, aged between 45 and 64. They were predominantly well educated and had high income.

Participants were asked to complete four questionnaires once a month for a period of a year: a life events scale an uplifts scale, a daily hassles scale, to see which was a better predictor of later health problems was measured by a health questionnaire.

Participants also completed a health status questionnaire consisting of questions on overall health status, bodily symptoms, and energy levels.

117 Daily hassles

135 Daily uplifts

24 Life Events

about weight


new job

rising prices

relations with friends


home maintenance

good weather

moving house

losing things

job promotion

change in school

physical appearance

eating out



Getting enough sleep

death of spouse

The findings were that both the occurrence and strength of hassles were significantly correlated with overall health status and bodily symptoms.

Daily uplifts had little effect on health. They also found no relationship between life events and health during the study, although there was a relationship for life events recorded for the 2 ½ years before the study.


Holmes, T. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The social readjustment rating scale. Journal of psychosomatic research, 11, 213..

Kanner, A. D., Coyne, J. C., Schaefer, C., & Lazarus, R. S. (1981). Comparison of two modes of stress measurement: Daily hassles and uplifts versus major life events. Journal of behavioral medicine, 4(1), 1-39.

Rahe, R. H., Mahan, J. L., & Arthur, R. J. (1970). Prediction of near-future health change from subjects' preceding life changes. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 14(4), 401-406.

How to cite this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2010). SRRS - Stress of Life Events. Retrieved from

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