Sources Of Stress: Life Changes And Daily Hassles.

April 11, 2017 - Paper 3 Issues and Options in Psychology | Stress

Description, AO1 – Life Changes (Life Events)

Definition: Life changes: These are significant changes in a person’s life which disrupt their normal routines. They include both positive and negative events, such as, marriage, divorce, a new job, moving house, etc. A number of researchers argue that life changes are a major source of stress.

Research looking at life changes creating a method of measuring stress (1964)

Holmes and Rahe (1964) were the first to record the effects of life events. From their work in hospitals, Holmes and Rahe noticed that certain life events in their patients seemed to be associated with stress and poor health (e.g. heart disease). They claimed that the greater the life change, the greater the stress and the more serious the illness.

Procedure Creating The Social Readjustment Rating Scale in order to measure stress:

  • Holmes and Rahe examined 5000 patient hospital records and identified 43 life changes that appeared to cluster in the months preceding their illnesses.
  • They gathered 394 participants and asked them to score each life event in terms of how much readjustment would be required by the average person, compared to marriage (to which a random value of 50 was assigned). If an event would take longer to readjust to than marriage, then they were told to give the event a larger score, scores from all 394 participants were totalled and averaged to produce a life change units (LCU’s) for each life event.
  • Other life events included occasions such as; having a baby, moving house, starting a new job, Christmas etc…


Descriotion, AO1 of Research to Investigate the Link between Life Events, Stress and Illness Rahe et al (1970)

Aim: To investigate the link between life events, stress and illness.


  • Rahe used a slightly adapted version of the SRRS to investigate the relationship between stress and illness Schedule of Recent Experiences (SRE), created by a set of ‘normal’ individuals rather than a group of individuals who were already hospitalised (as in the case of the SRRS).
  • The sample consisted OF 2,664 men who were navel and marine personnel serving aboard three US navy cruisers.
  • The men were asked to complete the SRE for events experienced in the last 2 years.
  • The SRE was adapted to be specifically relevant to military experiences, such as being selected to receive a promotion this produced a total LCU score.
  • During the 6-8 month tour of duty, a record was kept of any time one of the men visited a sick bay on board the ship.
  • The type and severity of the illness was also recorded.



  • Found a significant positive correlation between LCU score and illness score (+.118)
  • Those men who scored low in terms of SRE scores also had low levels of illness whilst at sea.
  • As both positive and negative life events were included in the SRRS, it appears that it is change rather than the negativity of change that is important in creating stress. Conclusion: It is the overall mental and emotional effort required to deal with a life event that creates the stress.


Evaluation, AO3 of Rahe’s Research into Life Changes


(1) Point: Further research has provided evidence for a link between high LCU scores on the SRRS and the development of stress related illness. Evidence: For example, Cohen et al (1993) gave nasal drops to participants that contained the common cold virus and also assessed life changes using the SRE. The researchers further assessed psychological stress using a perceived stress scale. Participants were quarantined to see if they did develop a cold. The results indicated that participants with higher LCU scores were more likely to get infected with the cold virus. Evaluation: This is a strength as Cohen at al’s (1993) research further supports the link between life changes and illness.


(1) Point: The ratings for the individual life events on the SRRS ignores individual differences: Evidence: For example, some people hate Christmas and find it stressful and therefore would view it as having a high LCU score (a large amount of readjust would need to take place), whereas others do not view Christmas as being stressful and therefore would view it has having a low LCU score. Evaluation: This is a problem as it means that the SRRS is not individualistic and therefore may under estimate/over estimate individual’s stress levels. In the case of this study it means that the research may not be measuring accurately what it is intending to measure (i.e. an individual’s stress levels) and therefore the research can be criticised for having low internal validity.

(2) Point: A weakness of Rahe’s study is that the reliability of the participant’s recall can be questioned.: Evidence: For example, the life changes approach is generally based on people’s memory of events over months or years. Rahe (1974) investigated the test-retest reliability of the SRRS and found that it varies depending on the time interval between testing. Evaluation: This is a problem because participants recall of past events (retrospective data) may not be accurate and again this could call into question the extent to which the study is accurately measuring what it is intending to measure therefore risking the internal validity of the study.


Description, AO1 of Research into Daily Hassles

Definition: Daily Hassles: The stresses of everyday life (e.g. sitting in a traffic jam, queuing at the supermarket) as oppose to major life events (e.g. marriage, having a baby).

Explanations of why daily hassles lead to stress:

(1) Accumulation Effect: Minor daily hassles (e.g. class test, falling out with best friend, rip new jeans etc…) build up and multiply. This leads to severe stress reaction (i.e. anxiety and depression).

(2) Amplification Effect: Chronic stress (e.g. life changes) makes us more vulnerable to daily hassles e.g. Exam stress might lead to us being less able to cope with minor disagreements with friends.

Daily Uplifts: Definition: Minor positive experiences in everyday life (e.g. someone saying you look good or a positive comment about class work). May counteract hassles.

Measuring Daily Hassles: Kanner et al (1981) devised a daily hassles scale (to assess everyday sources of stress) which had 117 items covering all areas of daily life. Lazarus created an uplifts scale of 135.

Research into Daily Hassles and Illness Kanner et al (1981) Aim: Kanner aimed to assess the view that daily hassles might be a better predictor of illness than the life changes approach.


  • 100 participants (48 men and 52 women) aged 45-67 years.
  • Each participant completed the Hassles and Uplift Scale (HSUP), for events over the previous month and continued to do this once a month for the next 9 months.
  • Participants also completed a life events scale for the six months preceding the beginning of the study and also for the two-yearly period after that. Finally, they completed it again at the end of the study.
  • Two measures were used to assess health and well-being The Hopkins Symptoms Checklist (assess symptoms such as anxiety and depression) and The Bradburn Morale Scale (assess positive and negative emotions) participants completed these scales every month.


  • The five most common hassles were; concerns about weight, health of a family member, rising prices of common goods, home maintenance, too many things to do.
  • The five most common uplifts were; relating well with spouse/lover, relating well with friends, completing a task, feeling healthy, getting enough sleep.
  • In general, the hassles and uplifts differed to those selected by another group of participants who were students; for example, the identified more problems related to having too much to do and not being able to relax.
  • There was a significant negative correlation between frequency of hassles and psychological well-being; in other words, those participants with fewest hassles showed the highest levels of well-being.


  • Kanner concluded that hassles were a better predictor of well-being than life events.
  • Hassles were also a better predictor of well-being than uplifts.


Evaluation, AO3 of Research into Daily Hassles


(1) Point: Further research has provided evidence to support Kanner (1981) findings that daily hassles significantly increase the chances of psychological and physical dysfunction. Evidence: For example, Ruffin (1993), carried out a study in Australia and found that daily hassles were linked to greater psychological and physical dysfunction compared to negative life events. Evaluation: This is a strength because such findings support Kanner’s research highlighting that it is the presence of daily hassles as oppose to negative life events make an individual more vulnerable to illness.

(2) Point: More recent research has provided evidence to support Kanner (1981) findings that daily hassles significantly increase the chances of developing both physical and mental illness. Evidence: For example, Bouteyre et al (2007) investigated the relationship between daily hassles and the mental health of students during the transition from college to university. Results showed that 41% of the participants suffered from depressive symptoms and there was a high positive correlation between scores on the hassles scales and the incidence of depressive symptoms. Evaluation: This is a strength because Bouteyre et al’s research supports the idea that there is a relationship between daily hassles and the development of health problems.


(1) Point: Kanner’s research uses a correlational analysis to investigate the relationship between daily hassles and illness and therefore it may not be possible to establish a causal relationship. Evidence: For example, we cannot state that daily hassles cause physical only that there appears to be a relationship between these two factors. Other factors such as smoking or drinking habits could have affecting the findings. Evaluation: This is a weakness because we cannot establish a cause and effect relationship between daily hassles, stress and the onset of illness because of the possibility of a third variable (for example diet, lack of exercise etc…) interfering with the link.


(2) Point: Daily hassles research (including Kanner’s’ research) uses retrospective data. Evidence: For example, in order to calculate a daily hassles score, participants are encouraged to think back to daily hassles they have experienced usually over the previous month, this could result in the recall of inaccurate memories as memory is reconstructive. Evaluation: This is problematic because the data generated might be unreliable and therefore it is possible to question the relationship between daily hassles, the development of illness and stress.

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