What is one of the major criticisms of 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.

  • We will start by exploring the Holmes-Rahe social readjustment rating scale.
  • Then we will delve deeper into stress by identifying how the social readjustment rating scale test can measure stress by delving into how the social readjustment rating scale scores are scored and how the social readjustment rating scale measures are identified.
  • After, we will explore the psychometric properties of the social readjustment rating scale.
  • Finally, we will examine the social readjustment rating scale’s uses and limitations.

The Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale

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. 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 have. 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 stress levels 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 Scores

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.

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.

Examples of stressful life events and associated LCUs:

Life EventLCU scoreDeath of a spouse100Divorce73Retirement45Change in a financial state38Trouble with boss23

Social Readjustment Rating Scale Measures

From the sum of scores, we can see the risk of developing illnesses and how much this stress affects your life.

  • A score of 150 or less indicates a low life stress level. The likelihood of developing a stress-related illness is considered low—an estimated 30% chance of becoming ill in the near future.

  • A score of 150 to 299 – is estimated to have a 50% chance of becoming ill in the future.

  • A 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.

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 and therefore has high validity.

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.

Other research has confirmed the same results, contributing to the scale’s reliability. Because of its reliability, other studies have applied the scale to determine the likelihood of suicide or developing eating disorders.

On the other hand, some items in the scale may be considered ambiguous and not representative of actual stress levels. Thus, it doesn’t account for individual differences.

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

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale: Uses and Limitations

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. In the study, 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.

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.

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 consider what is perceived as stressful in other cultures and, therefore, cannot be generalised to them.