Life Changes

  • Social Readjustment Rating Scale
  • Holmes and Rahe
  • Rhae
  • Evaluation
  • Study Evidence
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Holmes and Rahe (1967) played a key role in developing the
idea that life changes are linked to stress and illness.
In the course of treating patients they found that a series of life
events seemed to precede physical illness. These events were
both positive and negative but had one thing in common ­ they
involved change
Using life changes to measure stress
In order to test if life changes are related to physical illness, it was
necessary to develop some way of measuring these life changes.
Holmes and Rahe developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale
(SRRS) based on 43 life events taken from their analysis of over 5000
patient records.
In order to determine how stressful each life event was they enlisted the
help of 400 participants to provide a score for each life event.
Participants were told that marriage had the arbitrary baseline value of
50 and they were to score if an event would take longer to adjust to
(higher score) compare to marriage, or less time to adjust to (a lower
score) compared to marriage.
A classic study of life changes
Rahe et al (1970) used the SRRS created by himself and Holmes to test the hypothesis that stress related
illness are positively correlated with life events.
A military version of the SRRS was given to all the men aboard three US navy ships ­ a total of over 2700 men.
They were asked to fill in a questionnaire before a tour of duty noting all the life events that they have
experienced in the previous 6 months. An illness score was calculated on the bases of the number, type and
severity of illness whilst on tour.
A positive correlation of +0.118 was found between the life event score and the illness score, therefore
supporting the hypothesis that there is a positive correlation between stress related illness and life events.
However, as both positive and negative life events are used in the SRRS, it is the change that is involved by the
event that causes stress not the negativity the event causes.
· Some critics suggest that it is the quality of the event that is crucial, with undesired, unplanned and unwanted,
changes been the most harmful.
· The SRRS relies on peoples memory to recall the events that had taken place over previous months.
· Lazarus (1990) suggests that major life changes are relatively rare in people's lives. It is minor daily hassles
that are the more significant cause of stress.
· Brown (1974) found that before downs syndrome was known to be a chromosomal disorder. Mothers during
pregnancy of a downs child reported far more traumatic events during pregnancy than non-downs mothers. This
was despite that fact that there were no real differences in the experiences of downs mothers and non-downs
mothers during pregnancy.


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