Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events: The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale

//Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events: The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale

Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events: The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale

The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale is often used by doctors to find this answer: Can the most stressful life events predict future illness? Two researchers in 1967 thought so. Combing through the medical records of over 5,000 patients with an eye to seeing if there was a connection between illness and the most stressful life events, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe found that a strong correlation did exist. This correlation was so strong that they ranked stressful situations on a scale from most stressful to least stressful. These could indicate which life stressors put people at higher risk for becoming ill as a result. Read on to calculate your own stress levels, and see how these stressful situations could be affecting your health.

The most stressful life events according to the Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale

These results were published as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), more commonly known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

Rahe tested the reliability of the stress scale again in 1970. He gave the scale to 2,500 U.S. military members (sailors) and asked them to rank their most stressful life events. He then followed the sailors for six months, tracking their visits to the dispensary, to see if there was a correlation between their reported “life stress” and their visits to the doctor. The study once again proved the reliability of the scale. There was the exact same positive correlation between reported stress and illness as found in the original examination of medical record: 0.118.

The more stressful the event, the higher likelihood of illness. This result held true cross-culturally (looking at Japan and Malaysia in addition to the United States). It’s also true among different groups in the United States (African, Hispanic, and White Americans).

Top 10 most stressful life events

So what are the top ten most stressful life events on the Holmes and Rahe scale, and how are they used to predict the likelihood of illness? 

Each event is assigned a “Life Change Unit” score. These are then added together over a year and used to predict your risk of illness. For adults, the top ten most stressful life events and their “Life Change Unit” scores are as follows:

  1. Death of a spouse (or child*): 100
  2. Divorce: 73
  3. Marital separation: 65
  4. Imprisonment: 63
  5. Death of a close family member: 63
  6. Personal injury or illness: 53
  7. Marriage: 50
  8. Dismissal from work: 47
  9. Marital reconciliation: 45
  10. Retirement: 45

*Note: Death of a child was not originally defined in the original Holmes and Rahe scale, but due to its catastrophic effects on an individual, we have since added it to our list on Pain Doctor. 

To calculate your stress levels, add up each number for an event that has happened in the past year or is expected to happen in the future. If the event is expected to occur more than once, add those additional instances into your total. According to their scale, you have an:

  • 80% likelihood of illness for scores over 300
  • 50% likelihood of illness for scores between 150-299
  • 30% likelihood of illness for scores less than 150

Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events: The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale |

Other stressful life events

Just because you’re not experiencing a catastrophic event doesn’t mean you’re not suffering from cumulative stress. The stress test also includes these further categories (note that this list did come out in 1967, so some events are outdated in 2018, particularly mortgages that are less than $20,000!).

  • Change in health of family member: 44
  • Pregnancy: 40
  • Sex difficulties: 39
  • Gain of a new family member: 39
  • Business readjustment: 39
  • Change in financial state: 38
  • Death of a close friend: 37
  • Change to a different line of work: 36
  • Change in number of arguments with spouse: 35
  • Mortgage over $20,000 (updated for 2018 = ~$150,000): 31
  • Foreclosure of mortgage or loan: 30
  • Change in responsibilities at work: 29
  • Son or daughter leaving home: 29
  • Trouble with in laws: 29
  • Outstanding personal achievement: 28
  • Spouse begins or stop work: 26
  • Begin or end school: 26
  • Change in living conditions: 25
  • Revisions of personal habits: 24
  • Trouble with boss: 23
  • Change in work hours or conditions: 20
  • Change in residence: 20
  • A school change: 20
  • Change in recreational, social, or religious activities: 19
  • Mortgage or loan less than $20,000 (updated for 2018 = ~$150,000): 17
  • Changes in sleeping habits: 16
  • Change in number of family get-togethers: 15
  • Change in eating habits: 15
  • Vacation: 13
  • Christmas approaching: 12
  • Minor violation of the law: 11

Again, a score of 300 or higher puts a person at risk of illness. 150-299 shows a moderate risk of illness and a score of less than 150 predicts only a slight risk of illness.

Stress scale for non-adults

The scale was modified for “non-adults” and is scored in the same way:

  1. Death of a parent: 100
  2. Unplanned pregnancy/abortion: 100
  3. Getting married: 95
  4. Divorce of parents: 90
  5. Acquiring a visible deformity: 80
  6. Fathering a child: 70
  7. Jail sentence of a parent for over one year: 70
  8. Marital separation of parents: 69
  9. Death of a sibling:  68
  10. Change in acceptance by peers:  67

It is interesting to note that by number ten on the adult scale, the “Life Change Unit” score drops down to 45, but on the non-adult scale it is still relatively high at 67. This may indicate that non-adults are less able to cope with stressful events and need more assistance to navigate stressful times. For a more detailed analysis of each of these, check out HealthStatus’s website.

Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events: The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale |

7 more of the most stressful life events

Here are seven more top stressors that are definitely worth considering. This list of stressors was submitted by readers in the comments.

1. Selling a home, buying a home, or moving

While major changes in living condition (25) is already listed on the Holmes and Rahe scale, the actual act of selling a home is not. And if selling a home wasn’t stressful enough, add a time crunch to that, and watch stress levels soar. One of our readers pointed out their experience, saying:

“I really think that selling your home and moving in a two day period should be on the list! My blood pressure is off the wall, I am exhausted and fretting……and worrying……”

2. High stakes testing

These days, students in school take anywhere from ten to 30 tests a year. Some of these tests are related to regular classroom instruction, but others are classified as “high-stakes.” These can influence everything from grade placement to eligibility for special programs (e.g., gifted programs). College entrance exams and other major tests like the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) determine the course of a student’s future. And this all in the space of a few hours. With pressure like this, we agree it should be on the list!

3. Talking to someone you are interested in

Maybe you don’t remember the sweaty-palmed, nerve-wracking feeling of approaching someone that you like. One of our readers though believes this special type of anxiety deserves a place on the stress scale, saying:

“Talking to your crush for the very first time should be in the list. You come from home determined to talk and when you see him/her but when the moment of truth shows up you start sweating and become shy… Frustrating of course.”

4. Starting a new job

Changing responsibilities at work is listed as one of the most stressful life events on the Holmes and Rahe scale, but actually starting a new job is not. This can certainly be one of the top life stressors, especially if you are new to your field and unsure of what might be expected of you.

5. Becoming the victim of a crime

Noticeably absent from the original list is becoming a victim of a crime. This can include personal crimes, including any type of personal assault, or property crimes that include burglary of your home or vehicle. In the case of personal assault, the stress may be compounded by the manner in which the victim is treated. Without support and understanding, or if the victim is blamed in some way for the crime, this can exponentially increase the already-high level of stress that accompanies this type of life event.

6. Starting a business

Changes at work – losing employment, looking for a job, promotions, etc. – are covered by the stress scale, but starting a business specifically is not. This could be any type of business, from a brick and mortar shop to an online business. Along with the financial uncertainty of starting your own business comes the pressure put on the spouse and family of the new business owner. If a couple starts a business together, then double the stress and put it under the same roof.

7. Election years

We offer this stressful life event a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it is true that some election years can be more stressful than others. When there is a major shift in the political landscape, a war, or a transition from one party leading the country to another, politics can make the most even-tempered people feel stress.

How do the most stressful life events affect illness?

We often think of stress as being a largely mental state. After all, it seems like we can stress out about things we only imagine. But stress is more than just a thought in our minds. Stress is a physical response in our body to a perceived threat. Thousands of years ago, this stress kept us alive by flooding our bodies with cortisol and adrenaline in large enough amounts to escape attacking animals or tribes. In modern times, our most stressful life events are much different. Our bodies respond the same way, though, and sometimes that can lead to illness.

Richard S. Lazarus is credited with the creation of the modern definition of stress. This is the feelings we experience when “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” Stress, whether it is a minor event like dropping a glass or a major stressful life event such as a death in the family, triggers a physical response that allows us to react quickly and decisively.

In theory, once we remove the stressor, our bodies return to a neutral state. This perfect biological system is interrupted when we experience stressful life events that then become chronic stress. A state of heightened, chronic stress can lead to an increased risk of illness, many of which can be very serious. This correlation has been verified time and again in the research.Stressful-Life-Events-Lead-to-Increased-Risk-Of-Illness-Scale

Types of illness caused by the most stressful life events

The types of illness that top stressors can cause are not particularly surprising. They include:

  • Chronic painsuch as lower back pain and neck pain
  • Obesity: While not an illness in and of itself, obesity is the root cause of many other serious and lethal conditions. Excess levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that floods our body during stress, causes fatty deposits around the midsection when stress becomes chronic.
  • Diabetes: Stress raises the glucose levels of those with Type 2 diabetes directly. It also seems to increase unhealthy types of eating and lowered levels of physical activity.
  • Depression and anxiety: Stress increases the chances of developing depression and anxiety by as much as 80%.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: Contrary to popular belief, stress doesn’t cause ulcers. It can, however, make gastrointestinal issues worse. It also contribute to the development of chronic heartburn (or gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Accelerated aging: One study found that chronic stress can accelerate the pace of aging. This may be due to stress’s effect on telomeres, a structure at the end of each chromosome that protects against deterioration of that chromosome. Stress shortens telomeres, in effect offering less protection.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Stress causes the brain to form lesions more readily. This can accelerate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other illnesses caused by the most stressful life events

Other common stress-related illnesses include high blood pressure, heart disease, severe asthma, and increasing mental illness, including schizophrenia.

It is important to recognize that there are healthy levels of stress and that stress can be caused by happy events, such as marriage and the birth of a child. The issue is not with stress itself, but with stressful life events that turn into chronic stress.

What’s the difference between chronic stress versus episodic stress?

Episodic or acute stress is protective; chronic stress is degenerative. Here’s how to recognize the difference.

  • Chronic stress makes it hard to unwind: People experiencing chronic stress may feel jumpy and unable to settle down. They may feel like they always need to be doing something, or they may feel always behind in their daily tasks.
  • Chronic stress changes mood: Chronic stress’s major calling card may just be the snappy irritability that often accompanies it. Previously patient parents may find themselves snapping at their kids. Or they may find themselves overreacting to a situation. People with chronic stress may find themselves at the mercy of wild mood swings, elated one minute and furious the next.
  • Chronic stress lasts well past the stressful life event: While a stressful life event may be challenging to process and let go of, stress becomes chronic when months (or years) later it seems as if the stressful event happened yesterday. It is common to have the features of chronic stress right as the stressful event is happening. These features should not last well past the event, though.
  • Chronic stress brings various physical changes: Physical changes wrought by chronic stress are unique to each individual. They can include weight gain or loss, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, excitability or hyperactivity, heart palpitations, and nervousness. These symptoms can vary widely and are typically constant, not acute or episodic.

It is crucial to understand that chronic stress is a condition that you can reverse. It is also important to take the time to recognize when the most stressful life events become a threat to our well-being. In that way we can take steps to reduce our stressors in life. If you suffer from chronic pain, in particular, we encourage you to talk to one of our pain doctors. They can help you treat your pain, as well as find ways to cope with stressful situations.

Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events: The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale |

How do you deal with a stressful situation?

First, take a moment to evaluate your level of stress on this stress scale.

Usually once a stressful event has passed, our bodies return to a regular state, but sometimes we find ourselves unable to settle back down. Sometimes the stressful life event is such that we find ourselves in an unbreakable cycle. For chronic pain patients, in particular, the most stressful life event may be the chronic pain itself. Battling a chronic condition takes a tremendous toll on both the pain patient and their family.

1. Acknowledge the stress

You know the saying that the first step to solving a problem is to recognize that you have one? Start dealing with stress by acknowledging that you are currently experiencing it. This may seem oversimplified, but it is an important first step.

Especially for pain patients who are used to coping with the stress of pain every day, it can be difficult to admit when stress has become overwhelming. Because stress levels can predict future illness, it is important to admit where you are on the scale so that you can move forward.

2. Don’t do anything

While this advice may seem counter-intuitive, sometimes the best thing to do is…nothing. Mindfulness meditation is gaining widespread popularity as a complementary pain treatment, and with good reason.

Meditation reduces the perceived severity of stress and pain. It also helps with pain-related depression and anxiety, and may reverse aging. Sometimes doing nothing, especially at the beginning, is the best way to understand and handle the top stressors.

Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events: The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale |

3. Practice self-care

The most stressful life events can consume our lives and daily routines until there is no time for anything else. Once we do get time, we may tend to collapse on the couch in front of the TV and call it “relaxation.”

A better way to spend that time would be in self-care. This can be as simple as a relaxing bath with Epsom salts and relaxing bath oils (think lavender) or as complex as going for a massage or other spa service. Self-care can even be indulging in a favorite hobby like gardening or painting. Regularly taking time out to do something you love can go a long way towards overall stress reduction.

4. Get support

Chronic pain can be a lonely, isolating condition. Too often even our loved ones don’t truly understand what we are going through. Support groups and online forums can make dealing with chronic pain easier, especially if stressful life events occur in addition to your daily pain. Other support groups for various life stressors (e.g., divorce, family illness, etc.) can also provide an empathetic ear. They can also provide some resources or local connections in the community. It may feel natural to withdraw when you are under stress, but reaching out can actually help you cope with it better.

5. Clear the clutter

The ancient Chinese art of feng shui deals with improving the energy flow of your space so that you feel calm and more harmonious. When stressors in life take over, our personal spaces may get cluttered and disorganized.

Taking a few moments at the end of each day to put things away can help you wake up with a clear space and a calm mind.

Adding different elements like flowing water, green plants, and specific types of metals in specific places in your home can also help manage stress.

6. Exercise

We have said it so often that it may begin to sound routine, but it is absolutely true. One of the best ways to manage the most stressful life events is with exercise.

Level of intensity and duration don’t even matter. Just ten minutes of daily physical activity can be enough to reset your mental and emotional state. For those living with chronic pain, regular exercise is a crucial part of treatment. It keeps joints and muscles active and increases range of motion. On the most painful, stressful days, you can try  slow and soothing exercise. Gentle, restorative yoga and flowing t’ai chi can help manage both stress and pain.

7. Go for a massage

We don’t all have the luxury of regular bodywork like massage. When possible, though, this complementary therapy is a great way to manage stress and treat pain at the same time.

Not all massage is the same. Choose a massage style that suits you, your personality, and your pain condition. Touch can be very therapeutic, and massage has been proven to lower stress levels.

8. Eat well

The most stressful life events can sometimes send us running to the kitchen for a snack.

The quality of these snacks may add to the stress and the pain that is already there. Choose wisely, and your “stress eating” can actually be good for stress busting and pain relief.

There are plenty of delicious, easy foods that are anti-inflammatory and help lower stress. You have to eat; you might as well take good care of yourself when you do.

Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events: The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale |

9. Have a cup of tea

The simple act of stopping to sit and drink tea may be as effective a stress reliever as anything else on this list.

While teas can be medicinal, just taking time out from reacting to the most stressful life events, especially while in pain, may be the most powerful medicine.

10. Practice stress prevention

While certain amounts of stress are inevitable, it is possible to reduce stress in your life with a few simple steps. The most stressful events in life are often unpredictable and may occur all at once. Plan for the unknown as much as possible by putting systems into place that help you prevent what stress you can and cope better with what sneaks in.

The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale can be a helpful predictor of the risk of illness. Have you experienced an increased risk of illness as a result of a stressful life event? (Hit the comments to see the most stressful life events for others and to share your own!)

If stressful life events are causing you pain, it may be time to talk to a pain specialist. They can help you find holistic methods for managing stress and treating your pain. Click the button below to find a pain doctor in your area or use the tips here to find one

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Pain Doctor was created with one mission in mind: help and educate people about their pain conditions, treatment options and find a doctor who can help end their pain issues.


  1. […] with 4 of the 10 most stressful life events in the last 2 years according to this list, but only 1 on this list. I can’t imagine getting divorced after 30 years with kids and mortgages, or the death of a […]

  2. […] April of last year our sister site, Pain Doctor, shared information about the Holmes Rahe Stress scale. The scale expresses the top ten life changing incidents that will cause stress. Each item is […]

  3. Avatar
    Dhruv August 26, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Talking to your crush for the very first time should be in the list.
    You come from home determined to talk and when you see him/her but when the moment of truth shows up you start sweating and
    become shy as hell.
    Frustrating of course.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor September 2, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Awww, that is another hugely stressful event!

    • Avatar
      A May 11, 2016 at 4:44 am

      In comparison to losing a loved one, divorce, listing financial stability (which means you likely won’t be able to pay bills and could end up homeless?) LOL

  4. Avatar
    Peach September 23, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    I really think that selling your home and moving in a two day period should be on the list! My blood pressure is off the wall, I am exhausted and fretting……and worrying……

  5. […] its not on an official list of most stressful life events or anything (at least not one I could find), but there is a recent study that claims that early […]

  6. Avatar
    Sasha Fierce October 16, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Starting a new job should also be considered top on the stressor list.

  7. 3 Ways to Manage Stress Before Your Wedding October 29, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    […] exciting times in a person’s life, and it can also be one of the most stressful. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a new marriage ranks in the top 10 of the most stressful life events — up there with moving, […]

  8. Avatar
    Sally November 2, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    What about public speaking, is that no longer considered one of lifes big stresses??

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor November 3, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      It surely is! Definitely on a list for some people.

  9. Avatar
    Mike White November 4, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Death of a child should top the list?

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor November 10, 2015 at 8:01 am

      That could also easily match the first one on this list.

      • Avatar
        Kristen May 30, 2016 at 12:15 pm

        Even though I have never experienced the death of a spouse, I think your statement that the stress from the death of a child being equal to that of a death of a spouse inaccurate. I would say that it is much greater but that’s just my opinion…

    • Avatar
      Michael Lush June 6, 2016 at 6:44 am

      I lost my wife and I think in terms of grief, loss of a spouse and loss of a child are comparable. However loss of a spouse is compounded with far wider life consequences.. single parenthood, loneliness, possible money problems to name but three.

    • Avatar
      Monique July 21, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      I think death of a spouse is MUCH more stressful because you are losing your lover, best friend, financial partner (maybe even financial support), someone who shares the day to day duties in life, someone who takes care of you when you’re sick, helps you with the home and kids, and so on. They are measuring stress here, not pain.

      • Avatar
        Ulla September 23, 2017 at 6:53 am

        You are absolutely correct.
        I lost not only my husband but also financial stability, our home, our things, our neighborhood, friends … We didnt have children and were not officially married. I am not eligible to receive his social security (non of my own) and left without a monthly income (I’m too old to be hired). No one to talk to, no one there when I feel lonely or sick. Dating is becoming a necessity and I’m grieving more every day.
        Life is completely turned upside down in every aspect.
        Aside from that, I had two failed marriages, two divorces, two rapes, multiple misscarriages, moved 24 times during my life so far, had many jobs, was laid off many times, I’m now trying to start a business, have a sick mom, my friends don’t visit, money is very scarce and so on …
        My life was good until my husband (although not legally married we were more committed to each other than most married couples) got cancer and died. Our dream of growing old together is shattered and I’m afraid I will remain alone …
        How is that for a stressful life?

        • Avatar
          Shadow April 14, 2018 at 2:01 am

          why is your life soo upside down?

        • Avatar
          Sierra C January 29, 2019 at 10:22 am

          I hope you are doing oksy.

        • Avatar
          Lianne Stevens July 18, 2019 at 8:41 am

          I hope that everything is working out…lost my spouse and I thr relationship with a new partner is ending. I never thought I would meet anyone and I think the worst is being alone and no one to share with..

    • Avatar
      Petro September 4, 2018 at 11:47 am

      Having experienced the death of my children, my spouse, my father and my godson in two years, also lost my job, my income, and relocated to 1300kms away….. I would say that my kids were the most stressful. I,m still without a job, but it doesn’t give me sleepless nights. Thinking about my kids does. Sleepless nights, reliving their last ten minutes on earth…..Yes loosing a spouse has implications, but things that cannot be replaced causes much more stress. You cannot replace a child. You cannot create new memories, you loose not only a child but the future of that child – marriage, grandchildren. Spouses can be replaced, maybe not as good as the one you had, but sometimes we settle for companionship rather than loneliness. There is another incident which should be added to the top list of stress causes – your home burning down. You loose everything – material things mean nothing – but the biggest loss in such an event is the loss of your photographs and the little nic nacs of sentimental value only to you – bits of great grandma’s Jewelry, your granpa’s pipe, dad’s name and title plague off his old office door, – your memories. they are irreplaceable and when most of the people in your photo albums are already deceased its just a double whammy stressful event.

      • Avatar
        Tanya Blackwell October 17, 2018 at 9:45 am

        I have been through many traumatic events (child abuse, rape, husband raping sister, being held hostage, being seriously injured as result of same, losing custody of 2 children due to latter, blindness, brother suicide, grandmother cancer death, divorce, homelessness, severe harassment, mental illness – shock, that last one, right..?!) – ALL pale in comparison to actually losing a child to death. My worst nightmare – so literally! I sympathise so much… X x x

  10. Avatar
    Sarah November 8, 2015 at 10:30 am

    I’m doing research for an article I’m writing about anxiety and depression. Within three years, I lost my father, became divorced from my husband of 23 years, remarried, divorced within 15 months, moved 4 times, had major surgery, lost my job, was raped and within a year of that – assaulted in my home. My feet can barely find the ground. Too many big life stress events.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor November 10, 2015 at 8:05 am

      We are so sorry for all of the pain you’ve experienced recently Sarah. Have you reached out to a local therapist for help?

    • Avatar
      Sarah August 8, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      If I could I’d hug you. Love and good vibes your way Sarah. (((Hugs)))

  11. Avatar
    Debra November 10, 2015 at 10:52 am

    Computer crash hardrive failure, I am stressed!

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor November 16, 2015 at 2:45 pm

      Oh no!

  12. Avatar
    Chris Byrne December 28, 2015 at 12:47 am

    I have seen another list which goes up to 1 -20. It included moving home, changing work, changing countries. Have you seen and can you share such a list?

  13. Avatar
    Kay December 29, 2015 at 4:55 am

    Some of these events do not cover situational events – for example I believe for non adults, witnessing domestic violence in your parents is more stressful than parental divorce.
    Of course situational events like that are long term however.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor December 29, 2015 at 10:32 am

      Very true Kay. The act of creating a list like this requires some simplification to what are much more complex events. We definitely agree!

    • Avatar
      Miss Roo January 8, 2018 at 11:58 am

      Absolutely. The list was done in 1967 where those sorts of things were probably less talked-about but obviously still happened…

  14. Avatar
    Charis January 7, 2016 at 8:23 am

    whoah this weblog is fantastic i really like reading your posts.
    Keep up the great work! You already know, lots of persons are searching round for this information, you could help them greatly.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor January 7, 2016 at 10:30 am

      Thank you for your kind comments Charis! We really appreciate them.

      We definitely know that stress and mental health issues are so important for pain patients. You can find all of our posts on these topics at:

  15. Avatar January 18, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I am not sure where you’re getting your information, but good topic.

    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for excellent info I was looking for this information for my mission.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor January 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Hi there — this information is based on the Holmes and Rahe psychological stress scale. You can find more info about this at

      We’re glad it could help with your mission!

  16. […] reserved for situations like death, chronic illness, divorce and marital problems, or imprisonment [Source] – it’s unsettling to pack up your entire life and move […]

  17. […] 1967, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe theorized that stressful life events could predict the risk of future illness. They examined the medical records of 5,000 patients and found a positive correlation between the […]

  18. […] stress of pain every day, it can be difficult to admit when stress has become overwhelming. Because stress levels can predict future illness, it is important to admit where you are on the scale so that you can move […]

    • Avatar
      Christine June 27, 2019 at 2:17 pm

      I was glad to see some of the newer treated traumatic events that impact health such as sexual abuse / trafficking, being a target (I don’t like victim) of criminals, both combat & non-combat related PTSD. And even the stressors of depression and chronic illness. I would say that being a caregiver to someone would be another one for ‘a list.’

      I do wish someone or group could revise the list and include 21st century events. I do know it would be hard to do as everyone processes events differently and different people have different levels of coping skills and resiliency, so it would never be perfect but some leveling might be helpful. I read on one site to add the numbers if you have more than one type of stressor, but if you have say, 3 chronic conditions, what ever that number is multiply it by 3 or whatever number your you have experienced in the last 12 months. Personally I’m not sure the 12 months should be there, because recovery is so different for everyone and if like me you are in therapy and you are still addressing say the divorce from 7 years years ago, I think the stress still applies

      Thanks for your site. It was very helpful.

      • Pain Doctor
        Pain Doctor July 1, 2019 at 2:54 pm

        Thanks for your feedback!

  19. Avatar
    Wayne March 12, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Death of a helpful mother-in-law who lived with us and helped us a lot with our first child. Birth of a second child 2 weeks later but being advised by a friend I have symptoms of male postpartum (sic?) depression. Being disowned by my (unstable) parents for intending to emigrate 2 more weeks after that. Organising to emigrate with kids (including newborn) in several months time. Having to find buyers for two properties in the space 2 months. Being given ridiculous workloads (I must be a business analyst, data analyst, database admin, financial and managerial accountant and now must manage projects all at once!) at current work and told if I don’t accept it there ‘is no job’ i.e. we’ll fire you as part of our cost cutting (but later realise we need 3 new people) – I’m also trying to hang on until I emigrate. Hiding my intentions and plans to emigrate from employer but unable to look elsewhere as other employers want a 2 year commitment. Losing about 25% to 30% of sleep due to first child waking up with night terrors lately. Wife now suggesting in a nasty way that I move out on the weekends if I keep getting upset with the family or behaving like I do.

    Am I just being a hypochondriac or do I have reason to just want to freak out and feeling so unhappy while having fantasies of running away from everyone and everything? Some people make it sound like the former.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      Wow Wayne — it sounds like you’re going through a lot. Finding a really good therapist to act as a sounding board for you and what you’re going through might be a really good idea.

  20. Avatar
    jc March 14, 2016 at 9:28 am

    This site explains alot. For a Full Year after my fiance of four years suddenly died…I was only 29 and did not have any menstrual cycles for a full year. I figured it was cancer or some other type of illness but my doctor Tod me it was purely my body’s reaction to stress. Oh, additionally after his death my hair (even eyebrows) went nearly fully grey/white within a few months! I had no idw a that sudden heavy stres can affect one’s body in such a way!

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      Wow! Stress can have such huge impacts on our bodies.

  21. 5 Signs of Stress - Pain Doctor April 6, 2016 at 11:40 am

    […] month we are focusing on stress at Pain Doctor. This got me thinking, “What are some of the top signs of stress?” I’m sure […]

  22. Avatar
    Karan April 7, 2016 at 4:01 am

    I hav a friend who had to change jobs, move house, once he actually found somewhere to rent, and relationship of 3years ended. He’s experiencing anxiety and chest pains daily. Poor kid. This is a good starting point to learn correlation between emotional and physical stress levels being experienced by him. (Not even 30 yr old).

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor April 8, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      That’s terrible. It really does create physical sensations in the body 🙁

    • Avatar
      Liz April 25, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      Blessings ! Your friend will come out of this and help others deal with life stressors tell them to hang on tight dont let go and keep moving forward🙏🙌🏻😇

  23. Avatar
    Liz April 25, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks !!! using the scale to justify my emotional physical status- I have fibromalgia – lost spouse of 15 years week of thanksgiving 2014 then losing job of 18 months a year later 2015 in november a year after my loss of spouse- I hurt – theres so much more and I had actually typed it up and got some relief by deleting the insane stress ive endured while battling fibromalgia anxiety depression for last 10 years – point being your site helped ease my pain- I hurt inside and out – even though I’m in therapy thank you for your site I will definitely use information wisely to help me during my recovery –

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor April 26, 2016 at 10:53 am

      We are so glad to hear we’ve helped Liz. We hope you find some of our other information on fibro ( and can find some relief from your pain. Sending good thoughts your way.

  24. Too Much Stress Is Unhealthy | The Parents Adviser April 30, 2016 at 2:35 am

    […] didn’t make the list). There is actually something called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale and it measures (scores) these 10 events. They are, in […]

  25. Avatar
    Beth May 31, 2016 at 5:02 am

    Funny how you asked Sarah if she’d reached out to a therapist. I have just lost both my parents in 3 months, during my mother’s short illness and death, my partner of 11 years decided to dump me for an ex. I have 2 horses, 2 dogs and 3 cats that I won’t be able to keep now on my own, no place to go, a sister who is an alcoholic and also a trustee of my parents estate which is very small. I have lost over a month of work, have no money … on and on and you want to know if a therapist has been called? Excuse me but maybe you are in the UK where people can actually get healthcare without worrying, I am in the USA and in order to see a therapist you need a whole lot of money. I am broke and considering suicide.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor May 31, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Beth — We know that therapists can be expensive, especially when someone is already going through a lot financially. However, if you’re considering suicide, know that there’s always someone to talk to who can help. Talkspace offers cheaper or free virtual therapy options: 7Cups connects you with people who are willing to listen: There are multiple crisis hotlines that can also help whenever you need it, and can often also help with local resources:

  26. […] planning and getting married are considered among the most stressful events in a person’s life. Venues can alleviate some of a bride’s stress by providing easily […]

  27. Avatar
    A June 6, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    most of all these suggestions are very short term pains. Talking to a crush? Moving your house? Once they are over they are over. But the death of a spouse, a divorce, a death in the family – that lives on. Sure the latter are stressful for the time, but you get over them. Such petty stresses

  28. Avatar
    Lisa Walker June 12, 2016 at 7:00 am

    Looking through earlier comments I imagine loss of a child way harder to get over than loss of a spouse. Just my two cents worth. In the last three years I lost my sister in law to cancer, we lost everything we owned including our house, had an international move, marriage breakup, major illness in the family, my ex left me and kids in a new country and went back to NZ, and I lost my job as a single mother who doesn’t qualify for any benefits in Australia. I’m coping but have had so much stress as well as abandoned from almost everyone I’ve ever known, including family members that I’m just waiting for the cancer to set in lol. I haven’t had therapy, no money but I surround myself in an industry of really positive and motivated people which is what’s pulling me through. People say not to dwell on the past but definitely easier said than done but I’m trying. Living a life a luxury then going to broke and renting is hard enough to deal with as it is. I’m a mother of seven but only have three at home now. Throughout this period our family got broken up which is also hard to deal with. I lost three children living at home at once. Absolutely zero support in a strange country with zero friends but hey I’m alive and could always be worse!!

  29. Avatar
    Ali July 2, 2016 at 3:22 am

    How could “Death of a Child” not be on the list???? It’s as stressful if not more than death of a spouse? Why is this devastating event so over looked?

  30. […] 10 Stressful Life Events: the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale – The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale is often used by doctors to find this answer: Can stressful events predict future illness? Two researchers in 1967 thought so. […]

  31. […] second (after death) as one the most stressful life events you can go through, according to the Holmes and Rahe scale. Your emotions are likely to be very up and down throughout the process, so don’t try and […]

  32. Big Stress, Big Day - Jacob D Henry September 18, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    […] In a study done in 2003, results indicated that brides-to-be experience more stress about the upcoming wedding than the men do. In accordance with this, The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale places marriage in 7th on a list of most stressful life events. […]

  33. […] health, not to mention the impact it has on our children, led doctors to label it as the second most stressful event we can experience in […]

  34. Self-care in a crisis – The Serialist October 27, 2016 at 9:14 am

    […] is the highest stressor on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, and its effects can still feel traumatic, even if the passing was expected. (Hospices can offer […]

  35. […] a job is ranked among the top 10 most stressful things a person can face, according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress scale. With that in mind, is it even possible to prepare for a loss of income in order to lessen the […]

  36. Avatar
    Randy November 9, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I was surprised not to see chronic illness or substance abuse by a spouse. This is becoming a huge issue. It is like a death, only the pain goes on, and the expenses, too. They say that the victim of a spouse who is addicted is more likely to get sick or die than the addicted person.

  37. […] is the second most stressful event for adults to experience in life, topped only by the death of a spouse. Though it is the most […]

  38. […] a loved one is undeniably stressful. In fact, one academic study used by doctors proved this. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale put the death of a spouse as the most stressful life event, with death of a close family member […]

  39. Avatar
    Jaime December 3, 2016 at 6:02 am

    Hi over the last few days I have been looking over major stress issues and now I don’t feel so crazy or something is wrong with only me. Lol. I am a 36 year old female and feel like I’m 70 no offense. I am constantly sick with flu like symptoms and have zero energy I feel some days everything I’ve worked so hard for I’m slowly losing. I feel like I’ve been going through a divorce for 12 years. I ex husband harasses constantly we have joint custody of our two daughters and he constantly puts a wedge between us😫. I have a 18 year old son finishing his senior year in high school so the stress of what happens after that😫 Then my job I own a Home HealthCare Agency which believe it or not is a 24 hour job. Constantly something and it’s usually my employees. Just had to terminate 2 employees this week for insubordination and 1 goes and hatches up a deal with the client so I lost a client too😫 In the last 3 months I’ve had a very close person pass that was like my gramma times 10 , I’ve gotten married and buying a house😫 OMG do I bring this on to my self. I’ve been on anti depressants and anxiety and sleeping meds for years now. Major IBS issues for years sometimes only passing once every couple of weeks💩 My body constantly hurts. The racing mind at night ( is tomorrow gonna be a better day, what employee is going to be crazy , is everyone doing what they are supposed to, are my kids ok, what will people think if I do my work in bed again today on and on ) so most nights I get 3 or 4 hours of sleep and feel like I crash at 6 am and sleep til noon. All of my family live out of state and my parents are in their 60s so constantly worried about them try to get there once a month 6 hour drive in a two day trip no fun and my 3 siblings that live within 5 minutes of them ah no help at all. Couldn’t even get them to cut grass in summer. 😫 My husband even though we’ve been together for years I don’t think he completely understands I think he thinks it’s a switch I can turn on or off. Why are you laying down he says…OMG if I hear that one more time!!! So it’s Saturday 8am didn’t get to bed til 3 am back up at 6am and now drained and ready to lay down til he gets off work at 2pm and maybe I can dig up enough energy on this wet cold day to do something!!!

  40. […] school: constitutes a therapy visit. He was my dad, so they adjusted the scale for what they call “non-adults” (which is me 50% of the time. Because that cookie dough isn’t going to shotgun itself!). The […]

  41. […] in studies it has ranked close to divorce or death in terms of stress (you can read more here: So it is normal to need a bit of time to adjust. You might find yourself thinking ‘what have i […]

  42. […] feelings and questions about self-worth, competence, and one’s own financial future.  In fact, The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale rates dismissal from work as one of the top ten most stressful life events.  And while people can […]

  43. Struggle of Life – Sharing Our Voice January 29, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    […] be caused by a number of reasons like mood regulation, genetics, medications, medical problems, and stressful life events. No one has ever defined or put boundaries on what stressful life events are; they can be anything, […]

  44. […] we don’t live in a perfect world, and whether you like it or not, it’s going to throw stressful situations at you every so often. These kinds of things can be seriously difficult to navigate and can often […]

  45. Avatar
    Depleted March 14, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I have a score of over 850 on the stress test!!!!
    Trying to look for a job before insurance runs out is almost too much for me along with fibromyalgia and cancer.
    Just coping each day is enough and finding energy to visit with friends is exhausting. Everything is too much.

  46. […] the ultimate symbol of love, devotion and unity — but it can also be stressful. In fact, one study found marriage was the #7th most stressful life event, even more so than getting fired from your […]

  47. […] did not make this Top Ten list of Most Stressful Life Events (though, when reading the list, this made sense since it is not nearly as difficult as being […]

  48. Avatar
    Verci May 5, 2017 at 1:30 am

    I think that stressful situation number 8 (you are writing about) is not just dismissal from work but also workplace can be one of the causes of stress. I read that workplace stress has an influence on sleep:

  49. […] is the second most stressful life event. It is more stressful than imprisonment and the death of a close family member. After all the […]

  50. […] straight from the start. Being laid off from work is absolutely devastating, and is one of the most stressful experiences anyone can go through. Like any life-changing event, it takes time to come to terms with what has taken place, but once […]

  51. […] Three of the top major life stressors is happening to me at any given time. […]

  52. […] a look at that list of fields again, and then take a look at this list of the most psychologically stressful experiences in a person’s life. Notice anything? When people undergo the kind of life change that leads to a […]

  53. […] wonderful time. That may be the case for a few brief moments but actually, according to a wellbeing and health site, it is number four in the top of most stressful life situations, higher than being the victim of a […]

  54. […] good attorney can make all the difference in helping you through what is widely regarded as the most stressful thing in life, with as little additional stress as possible. […]

  55. […] but you should not fall into the trap in which you actually overdramatize your situation. People go through worse things in their lives. Do not forget to breathe and repeat to yourself that many new and wonderful […]

  56. […] sucks. It’s one of the most stressful things we will ever do in our lifetime. Aside from somebody waking up dead, your marriage waking up dead, or your love life […]

  57. […] there are a few bucket fillers which will overflow you […]

  58. Avatar
    Scott October 14, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I liked reading the posts where people put what they have gone through. So here’s mine:
    Developed chronic OCD, anxiety, depression, panic attacks and social anxiety by age 27. Broke up with girlfriend, moved out back to a small remote town to start new job in Department of Justice dealing with criminals and violent crime in the courts. Developed a drinking and prescription drug problem, moved to another even smaller more remote town for new work position. Became an on call fire fighter seeing death, blood and guts on a daily basis. Got badly bashed twice and had a knife put to my throat and cut. Flown to hospital returned to work 3 days later. Develop chronic PTSD from it. Stayed in same small town for 5 years determined not to be run out of town. I was isolated there, ostracised by the community, fearing for my life on a daily basis and not supported by employer or family. Found new girlfriend visited her family in the Netherlands had a break down over there. Came back and stayed sick with breakdown symptoms for 1 year. Left town to get help seeing clinical psychologist for 1 year before moving to another remote town doing same jobs. Break down again after 1 year there. Moved to city got help again symptoms receding. Sold an investment property moved into other investment property. Partner of six years develops mental problems, she has an 8 week miscarriage then we break up this week and I’m now 40 years old.

    • Avatar
      Scott October 14, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Oh yea and have developed chronic lower back and neck/shoulder pain.

    • Avatar
      Scott October 14, 2017 at 9:09 pm

      I do recommend therapy to people. It gave me the building blocks to develop a mind set that is very beneficial to me. Now I couldn’t give a shit about what hardships life throws at me. I will deal with them. And I certainly don’t give a rats about societies expectations of normal such as having a family by a certain age etc. it’s all social constructions of little or no importance in this universe.

  59. Avatar
    Tezza December 22, 2017 at 3:22 am

    Selling your home of 27 years which you renovated and paid for alone because spouse left you with young baby all those years ago, then purchasing a new one, within three weeks of selling….three days before Christmas…….phew….now to move…..

  60. Avatar
    Miss Roo January 8, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Miscarriage? Break-ups (Non-marital)? Starting a family in general? I think there are lots more stressful events not mentioned on the lists that are more common now to modern day living. Personally, I think peak-time traffic should be up there at number 1! 😉

  61. Avatar
    Teri January 21, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    Where is ‘death of your child’? I don’t mean to be morbid but if that one isn’t on the list anywhere it can’t really be taken all that seriously.

  62. Avatar
    justa mom March 3, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Thank you very much for your post, Teri and I was equally shocked to see that the death of a child on that list didn’t even deserve a mention!
    Almost two years ago, my only son and child took his life at age 24. Trust me. There is no recovering from a loss like that, ever. Your entire life is spent in a fog of excruciating mental pain and deeply bleak sorrows nothing can ever really fix or even touch. Losing your child is the worst thing that can ever happen to a parent. The nightmares are terrifying, the loss of appetite alarming and the inability to sleep without medication is disruptive and disturbing. The worst thing that could ever happen to any parent has already happened, What more could possibly beat that other than losing more than just one child?
    Exactly how is losing one’s child ranked below being incarcerated? For real? Trust me, I would trade an entire lifetime in prison just for the chance to hold my child’s face in my hands to tell him how much I love him just one more time.
    Someone needs to contact this Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale operation through Pain Doctor. This is just reckless and hurtful neglect on their part and the list should be amended immediately.


    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 5, 2018 at 11:20 am

      Hi there — Death of a child wasn’t originally on the Holmes and Rahe scale, or was quantified in the “death of a close family member” section, but at Pain Doctor we believe this was in error. We’ve since adjusted the list to add “death of a spouse (or child)” as the most traumatic event on the list. Thanks for your feedback, and the comments from others that alerted us to this neglectful omission in the original list.

  63. Avatar
    Salty March 27, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Whether plaintiff of defendant
    – professional types
    -personal types
    I’ve had to sue a business partner, an employer and an insurance company, and though I’ve never been sued, the threat of malpractice suits(legitimate ones) can be very stressful too

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor April 2, 2018 at 11:50 am

      Good point! Very stressful.

  64. Avatar
    longviewer March 30, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Retirement to become spouse’s caregiver, med bills empty IRA, get part time job but still do 80% of home tasks. Part time work alone triggers schedule conflicts and pay uncertainty. Yup we’re stressed here.

  65. Avatar
    Aria May 14, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Nobody mentioned about giving birth to a disabled child which is the most heart breaking event that happens in someone’s life.

  66. Avatar
    Tracey Trotter June 16, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    There are SO many heartbreaking moments. Definitely all #1’s. What happened to moving? In my day it was rated #2!!!

  67. Avatar
    Bonnie Parker-Duke June 29, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    Nowhere do I see listed the loss of a pet, especially for the elderly or childless.

  68. Avatar
    Tanya Blackwell October 17, 2018 at 10:13 am

    justa mum/mom – sympathise so much. Though I have not experienced the death of a child it is most certainly the second worst thing I can imagine – surmounted only by the notion of my child being tortured to a degree such as to produce irretrievable damage with continual suffering (So that death might literally seem the ‘better’ option…strictly to curtail suffering). Sometimes I wonder if this is an option that my mother would wish to engage… Another story -my apologies should I seem too self – absorbed – although, on a side note, I do very much try to protect those who care for me from the full impact knowledge of my life events…..

  69. Avatar
    Tanya Blackwell October 17, 2018 at 10:18 am

    ‘Salty’ – so true for ‘up there’ – during my ‘extremely contentious’ divorce my ex laid no less than 7 legal suits at my door (literally ALL were superfluous and contrived specifically to induce and increase my personal stress levels) Complete agreement.

  70. Avatar
    dee October 25, 2018 at 6:31 am

    i experienced 3 of the top 10 stressors in a short period of time. My husband had a terminal illness for 3 1/2 years, I had my knee replaced right before he died, and then I just retired this week. I am still recovering from the PTSD brought on by the constant stress of watching him suffer and getting myself back into shape. I’m at a point right now where I am moving forward with new determination. I always have and will continue to use self care in any way it is available.

  71. Avatar
    The Crusher November 5, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    This Blog is Awesome Keep it up!!

  72. Avatar
    Jakeria January 4, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    It’s best to just pray about every situation and never worry or stress.

  73. Avatar
    Abby Stewart May 11, 2019 at 1:37 am

    Awesome article, I really enjoyed this and it help put things in perspective for me. Always excellent, informative, sensible advice. Keep up the good work!

  74. Avatar July 10, 2019 at 4:16 am

    This is the right website for everyone who hopes to find out about this topic.
    You know so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really will need to…HaHa).

    You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic that has been written about for ages.

    Great stuff, just great!

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