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Holmes & Rahé (1967)

'The Social Readjustment Rating Scale'



Holmes & Rahé had observed that their patients had often experienced several life events in the months before the onset of an illness The aim of this study was to test whether there was relationship between life events and illness.



The procedure involved the construction of the 'The Social Readjustment Rating Scale' (SRRS) and also obtaining data about the person’s experience of illness over a 12-month period.



Holmes & Rahé found that there was a significant (though small)positive correlation between the score on the SRRS for events in the preceding year and the likelihood of experiencing some sort of physical illness within the following year. The higher the score the more likely the person was to experience ill-health.






Since the research was conducted critics have pointed out that there are several qualificatiobns that have to made about the study:

  • The overall relationship is small (in studies using the SRRS correlations are typically in the order of 0.3) and are significant only when very large samples are used.
  • The research relies on retrospective data.
  • The research is correlational and cannot prove that life events are a cause of ill health.
  • Holmes and Rahé assumed that any event could result in stress if it was a major enough change in a person’s life (even holidays!). However, subsequent research has shown that positive events (uplifts) need to be distinguished from negative events (hassles).


Return to Sources of Stress


Return to Summary of Key Studies



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