How Much Stress Does Someone’s Death Cause?
Holmes and Rahe published their findings as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), known more commonly as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Several studies have been conducted since their original research supporting the links between stress and illness.
|LIFE EVENT||LIFE CHANGE UNITS|
|Death of a spouse||100|
|Death of a close family member||63|
|Personal injury or illness||53|
|Dismissal from work||47|
|Change in health of a family member||44|
|Gain a new family member||39|
|Change in financial state||38|
|Death of a close friend||37|
|Change to a different line of work||36|
|Change in frequency of arguments||35|
|Foreclosure of mortgage or loan||30|
|Change in responsibilities at work||29|
|Child leaving home||29|
|Trouble with in-laws||29|
|Outstanding personal achievement||28|
|Spouse starts or stops work||26|
|Begin or end school||26|
|Change in living conditions||25|
|Revision of personal habits||24|
|Trouble with boss||23|
|Change in working hours or conditions||20|
|Change in residence||20|
|Change in recreation||19|
|Change in church activities||19|
|Change in social activities||18|
|Minor mortgage or loan||17|
|Change in sleeping habits||16|
|Change in number of family reunions||15|
|Change in eating habits||15|
|Minor violation of the law||11|
To measure stress according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the number of “Life Change Units” that apply to events in the past year of an individual’s life give a rough estimate of how stress can affect health.
A score of 300+ indicates a higher status of “at risk for illness.” A score of 150 – 299 shows that the risk of illness is moderate. A score of less than 150 shows only a slight risk of illness.
What Happens When Multiple Stress Causing Events Occur?
As one might expect, two of the top five events on the scale involved death: either the death of a spouse or the death of a close family member. Death of a close friend also makes the list. It is also interesting to note that many of the events include loss – divorce, for example – of an individual, job or significant concept. This may indicate that the grieving process is a stressful one, for the intensity of emotion and its lengthy duration.
The American Psychological Association reported that although the stress levels for Americans overall are slowly beginning to drop, they are still critically high and exceed what doctors consider to be healthy. Many Americans report extreme stress – close to 30% – for extended periods of time. Over 39% said that their stress had increased during the past year. Even more – 44% – reported that their stress had increased over the past five years. The findings indicate a serious trend that could have long-term consequences on an individual’s health.
Are There Ways to Overcome the Stress?
Overall the Holmes and Rahe study found that while people recognize that stress can have a negative impact on health and well-being, few Americans are willing to take actions to prevent stress, or even to learn to manage it well.
Managing the stress can be a difficult process. Coping strategies are often put into place to assist in guiding the individual through the difficult times of loss. It is not unusual to need the additional assistance of a trusted friend, professional counselor or similar help organization to navigate the difficult waters of stress related to grief.