How Stressed Are You? The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory Can Validate Your Complaints With Science

Sometimes, it isn't until you burst into tears in the middle of a sushi restaurant on a Friday night that you realize how stressed you are. Considering that's exactly as much fun as it sounds — that is, it just makes you more stressed out when you realize your spicy tuna roll is far less appetizing once it's covered in human tears — I don't recommend letting it get to that point. Even aside from influencing the tastiness of your dinner choices, stress does wacky things to your physical and mental health. But if you're still working on all that "getting in touch with your emotions" business, what's a lady to do?

Why, take a personality quiz, of course! We're millennials. That's kind of our thing. But before you settle for the first test you come across in the depths of Google, allow me to direct your attention to one of the more research-based options: the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory. Also known as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, the inventory was created in 1967 by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe as a way to identify common, major causes of stress. Each event has been assigned a numerical value denoting the level of stress it entails. Options range from the death of a spouse — the most stressful event — to minor annoyances like parking tickets. At the end, you tally up the values for each event you've experienced, and that score predicts how stressed you are.


The scale has its criticisms. It can't take into account individual differences, and it emphasizes major life events that occur infrequently over the everyday hassles that can add up to take a toll on your mental health over time. But if you're stressed out and looking for validation, the Holmes-Rahe scale is a good place to start, and besides, it's a cool conversation piece. Here's a step-by-step guide to taking the scale. You can find the test itself on the American Institute of Stress website.

The Instructions

There are 43 items on the inventory. If you've experienced an event in the last year (or if you expect it to happen in the near future — if you're getting divorced next week, I'd say you qualify for marital separation), write down the assigned point value. At the end, add these points up to receive your score. These are the sorts of things you can expect to find on it — and how I did:

1. Romantic Relationships

Unsurprisingly, relationships figure heavily into the stress inventory. Fortunately, that's not exactly a source of stress in my life, so my score is still at zero.

Score: 0

2. Health — Yours And Your Family's

Health is also a major topic in the inventory, and it can play into family relationships the way it does above.

Score: 44

3. Family Relationships

Changes in romantic relationships aren't the only important transitions; family relationships can also have a huge impact. I don't have in-laws or children, let alone kids old enough to leave the nest, but the influence of family is worth noting.

Score: 44

4. Moving House

Moving is the worst. Let's leave it at that.

Score: 69

5. Time Off

You'd think that having time off would be an opportunity to relax, but vacations can prove to be surprisingly stressful. Similarly, the holidays are nowhere near as relaxing as they should be; I'll definitely add those to my stress inventory.

Score: 81

6. Minor Violations

I take it back. The only thing worse than moving is parking tickets.

Score: 92

The Results


Here's how to interpret your results: People with a score of 150 points or less are considered relatively safe from a stress-induced breakdown; those with a score between 150 and 300 points are more likely to have a "major health breakdown in the next two years," according to the Holmes-Rahe model. If you have a score of 300 points or more, the odds are about 80 percent, because you definitely needed another thing to worry about. Like I mentioned before, though, this is just an inventory designed in the '60s. An online quiz isn't going to actually be able to predict your health, and you're the one who can tell how stressed out you feel.

So how did I do? With a score of 92, it looks like I'm remarkably chill these days. I'm certainly hoping it says that way.

Images:; Giphy (2); American Institute of Stress (6)