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The Social Readjustment Rating Scale

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The Social Readjustment Rating Scale

Stress is a normal bodily reaction that has been around for a very long time. As an ancient phenomenon, stress initially adapted to help us cope with life-threatening situations. It helped mobilise the body in times of need and helped us recognise potential sources of danger.

Modern society no longer needs such extreme reactions. Socio-cultural developments have led us to a particular lifestyle, and stress, while still typical, can have consequences if it lasts too long and builds up.

Measuring stress has become necessary because many stress-related diseases emerge in the modern world. The Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) is an example of such a test.

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale Depiction of stress StudySmarterDepiction of stress, Flaticon

What is the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS)?

Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe (1967) developed the Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS).

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) is a self-report measure of stress that measures the amount of stress a person has experienced and the likelihood that a person will develop a stress-related illness. The scale allows a person to identify how high their risk is of developing a stress-related illness.

Social Readjustment Rating Scale test

Holmes and Rahe developed a list of 43 stressful life events after analysing 5000 patients for the scale. These events are specifically called life-changing units (LCUs). The higher your LCU, the more stress you had.

The test requires the participant to calculate a score based on how many stressful events from the list they have experienced in the last twelve months. Once a total score is calculated, it is linked to the scale criteria to determine how likely a person is to develop a stress-related condition.

The original study results showed that increased levels of stress were associated with an increased likelihood of developing a stress-related illness. Holmes and Rahe’s Social Readjustment Rating Scale has influenced what is known about the relationship between stress and stress-related illness in psychology.

Social Readjustment Rating Scale test StudySmarterTest, Flaticon

Social Readjustment Rating Scale scores: what is an LCU?

The stressful life events are associated with different numerical values, also called ‘life-changing units’ (LCUs). The LCU value represents the total stress score associated with life events. LCUs differ according to life experiences and differences in expected stress levels.

Generate a Life Change Unit score (LCU score)

The values associated with the life events are summed to produce a total value. If an event has occurred more than once in the past 12 months, the value is multiplied by the number of events that occurred.Examples of stressful life events and associated LCUs:

Life EventLCU score
Death of a spouse100
Divorce73
Retirement 45
Change in financial state38
Trouble with boss23

Social Readjustment Rating Scale measures and stress-related illnesses

When your score is added up, we can see the risk for developing illnesses and how much this stress affects your life.

  • Score of 150 or less – This indicates a low level of life stress. The likelihood of developing a stress-related illness is considered low. An estimated 30% chance of becoming ill in the near future.

  • Score of 150 to 299 – An estimated 50% chance of becoming ill in the future.

  • Score of 300 or more – 80% probability of becoming ill in the near future.

Psychometric properties of the social readjustment rating scale

The psychometric properties of the Social Adjustment Scale are about assessing the usefulness and practicality of the scale so that it can be used as an appropriate measure in specific situations.

Validity

Research related to the scale has consistently demonstrated an association between stressful life events from the scale and physically related illness. This indicates the scale is accurate in measuring stress and determining stress-related illnesses.

Reliability

The study was praised for its reliability because the original study had a large sample of 5,000 medical patients. Since the study found a positive relationship between LCU scores and stress-related illness in a large sample, this speaks to the reliability of the SRRS scale.

Further research

Other research has confirmed the same results, which also contributes to the scale’s reliability. Because of its reliability, other studies have applied the scale to determine the likelihood of suicide or the development of an eating disorder.On the other hand, some items in the scale may be considered ambiguous and not representative of actual stress levels.

For example, ‘trouble with the boss’ does not indicate the level of trouble a person may be having with their boss.

In addition, ‘major vacations’ may be considered ambiguous, as this could be interpreted as either going abroad for an extended period, for example. In contrast, a holiday could be considered a major holiday for another person.

Other uses

Other studies have used the SRRS to assess the relationship between stress and specific events.Consider the study by Blasco-Fontecilla et al. (2012). They examined the effectiveness of using the SRRS to screen and identify potential suicide attempters.They tested 1,183 subjects, including 478 suicide attempters, 197 psychiatric inpatients, and 508 healthy controls. They found that the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) can help identify suicide attempters, especially when there are changes in the frequency of disputes, marital separations, and personal injuries (LCUs).Woods et al. (2010) used the SRRS to examine the effects of stress on eating behaviours, particularly binge eating. 497 female university students completed an online questionnaire measuring binge eating, major life stressors (the SRRS), and minor stressors. The test revealed a significant three-way interaction in these areas, confirming the validity and reliability of the SRRS.

Cause and effect issues

It is important to note that the SRRS does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship because it cannot be established between variables. Most of the research that has gone into the SRRS is purely correlational, and external variables are not really taken into account.

Generalisability issues

The criticism of the SRRS lies in its generalisability because although it had a large sample size, it is ethnocentric. Western cultures were assessed, and the SRRS does not take into account what is perceived as stressful in other cultures and, therefore cannot be generalised to them.


The Social Readjustment Rating Scale - Key takeaways

  • Holmes and Rahe (1967) developed the SRRS scale as a self-report measure of stress to determine the likelihood of developing a stress-related illness.
  • Stress scores for life events are the life-changing unit score (LCU). The total LCU score for life events over the past 12 months is calculated to determine the likelihood of developing a stress-related illness.
  • The scale’s LCU scores can indicate to a person their likelihood of developing a stress-related illness and can enable them to seek support or take steps to reduce that likelihood.
  • The scales psychometric properties are about its reliability and validity and how the scale has been applied in other studies, such as how stressful life events relate to suicide attempts and eating disorders.
  • The SRRS scale has some limitations, such as respondents’ lack of honesty, individual differences in responses to stress, representativeness for the general population, and ambiguity of stressful life events.
  • Other areas of research have successfully used the SRRS to assess various aspects of stressful life events, confirming the reliability and validity of the measurement instrument.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Social Readjustment Rating Scale

The most stressful event found on the Social Readjustment scale was the death of a spouse. Death of a spouse has an LCU of 100 on the life events, which is the highest score on the scale.


The second most stressful event is divorce, with an LCU score of 73 on the scale. 

A high score on the social readjustment rating scale indicates a high-stress level. A score of 300 or more on the scale is equated to an 80% chance of becoming ill in the near future.


A high score may indicate that the individual needs support, such as GP, counselling, or a lifestyle change to reduce stress levels.

The stressful events listed on the scale are not everyday typical stressful events a person may experience. Other researchers have suggested the scale should consider more common daily stressors, such as being stuck in a traffic jam, losing things and arguing. Participants also may not be truthful in the study. For example, if a person associates a stigma with a life event that they have experienced, they may not want to answer truthfully due to fear of judgement from the researcher. This factor would result in validity issues.

A major limitation of the social readjustment rating scale is that it does not consider the individual differences in stress levels a person may have for different life events. Individual people may respond differently to stress depending on factors such as thoughts, cultural background, social support and historical life events. 


For example, one person may perceive retiring as moderate stress in their life. However, another may feel little stress depending on their circumstances and attitudes towards retirement.

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) is a self-report measure of stress that measures the amount of stress a person has experienced and the likelihood that a person will develop a stress-related illness. The scale allows a person to identify how high their risk is of developing a stress-related illness.

Final The Social Readjustment Rating Scale Quiz

Question

What is stress?

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Answer

Stress is when change causes a physiological, emotional, and/or psychological strain. 

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Question

Who created the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS)?

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Answer

Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe.

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Question

When was the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) created?

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Answer

In 1967.

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Question

How many stressful live events are there in the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS)?

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Answer

43.

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Question

What are the stressful life events known as in the SRRS?

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Answer

Life-changing units (LCUs).

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Question

The higher your LCU score, the more stressed you are and the higher your chances of developing a stress-related illness. True or false?

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Answer

True.

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Question

How many months does a person factor in when calculating their score based on how many stressful events have occurred?

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Answer

12 months. The values associated with the life events are summed to produce a total value. If an event has occurred more than once in the past 12 months, the value is multiplied by the number of events that occurred.

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Question

Give an example of an LCU used in the SRRS.

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Answer

Any of the following:


  • Death of a spouse.
  • Divorce.
  • Retirement. 
  • Change in a financial situation.
  • The trouble with boss.

Show question

Question

What event has the highest LCU score?

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Answer

Death of a spouse – 100.

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Question

What does a score of 150 or less mean in the SRRS?

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Answer

This indicates a low level of life stress. The likelihood of developing a stress-related illness is considered low. An estimated 30% chance of becoming ill in the near future.

Show question

Question

What does a score of 150 to 299 mean in the SRRS?

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Answer

An estimated 50% chance of becoming ill in the future.

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Question

What does a score of 300 or more mean in the SRRS?

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Answer

80% chance of becoming ill in the near future.

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Question

Is the SRRS valid?

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Answer

Yes. Research related to the scale has consistently demonstrated an association between stressful life events from the scale and physically related illness. This indicates the scale is accurate in measuring stress and determining stress-related illnesses.

Show question

Question

Is the SRRS reliable? 

Show answer

Answer

Yes. The study was praised for its reliability because the original study had a large sample of 5,000 medical patients. Since the study found a positive relationship between LCU scores and stress-related illness in a large sample, this speaks to the reliability of the SRRS scale.

Show question

Question

Does the scale have issues with ambiguity?

Show answer

Answer

Yes, some items in the scale may be considered ambiguous and not representative of actual stress levels.

For example, ‘trouble with the boss’ does not indicate the level of trouble a person may be having with their boss.

Show question

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