Life Changes Stress Test

Tally sheet
Tally sheet

As you recall, in my last blog post I have talked about the GAS, General Adaptation Syndrome, as developed by Hans Selye. I promised to give you a tool to rate your level of stress and probability of becoming ill. (Uh, oh. My son and the grandbabies are home. I had better type fast.) So below is the Life Changes Stress Test. So get your pencil and paper and tally up your stress score. As you review the items on the list write down the stress score of those that have occurred to you in the past year. (Not starting on Jan. 1st of this year.)

An injury or illness which was very serious                      74
An illness or injury which was moderately severe             44
An illness or injury which was less serious than above     20
Subtotal                                                                        __

Change to a new type of work                                        51
Change in your work conditions                                      35
Change in your work responsibilities                                41
Taking courses to help you                                             18
Troubles at work                                                            32
Major business adjustment                                             60
Loss of your job                                                             74
Retirement (I wish!)                                                       52
Subtotal                                                                        __

Change in residence                                                      40
Major change in living conditions                                     42
Change in family get-togethers                                        25
Major change in health or behavior of
family member                                                        55
Marriage                                                                        50
Pregnancy                                                                     67
Miscarriage or abortion                                                   65
Birth or adoption of a child                                              66
Spouse begins or stops work                                          46
Problems with relatives or in-laws                                   38
Parents divorce                                                             59
A parent remarries                                                         50
Separation from spouse due to work or
difficulties                                                                        79
Child leaves home (I wish!)                                            42
Relative moves in with you (Yup. 2 yrs. ago)                   59
Divorce                                                                         96
Birth of a grandchild                                                       43
Death of a spouse                                                         119
Death of a child                                                             123
Death of parent or sibling                                                101
Subtotal                                                                        ___

Change in personal habits                                              26
Beginning or ending school                                             38
Change of school or college                                            35
Change in political beliefs                                               24
Change in religious beliefs                                              29
Change in social activities                                              27
Vacation                                                                       24
New, close personal relationship                                     37
Engagement to marry                                                     45
Personal relationship problems                                        39
Sexual difficulties                                                          44
An accident                                                                   48
Minor violation of the law                                                20
Being held in jail                                                                        75
Major decision about your future                                      51
Major personal achievement                                           36
Death of close friend                                                      70
Subtotal                                                                        __

Major loss of income                                                      60
Major increase in income (I wish!)                                   38
Loss/damage to personal property                                   43
Major purchase                                                              37
Minor purchase                                                              20
Credit difficulties                                                            56
SUBTOTAL                                                                   __

GRAND TOTAL SCORE                                                           __

0 to 199 Low Recent Life Changes Score
Your recent life changes proved to be few in number and low in demand – as measured by their recent life change severity units. As a consequence of this low level of recent life changes, your illness risk over the next year is also low. Only 1 out of 10 people in this range of life stress will become ill over the following year. An exception to the low life changes and subsequent good health is seen when a person’s low life change year immediately follows a year, or several years, of very high life change stress.

200 -299 Moderate Recent Life Changes Score
Most Americans report a moderate level of recent life changes, and these changes tend to make up a moderate degree of stress. Americans tend to experience some changes at work, changes in their living conditions, family and personal life changes, and financial changes, every year. As a general rule, 3 people out of 10 who experience a moderate Recent Life Changes Score will go on to develop an illness over the following year. This illness will likely be one of moderate severity.

Estimates of the stressfulness of life change events have increased over the past decades. High scores have gone up about 20%. Low scoring events have nearly doubled. Life is becoming more stressful even if we don’t increase our usual yearly number of life change events.

300 to 449 Elevated Recent Life Changes Score
A yearly recent life changes score in the elevated range is associated with an elevated risk for upcoming illness. For persons in this range, 1 out of 2 will likely experience and illness over the following year. More than one illness may occur, and some of these illnesses may be rather severe. The strain on the body from elevated life stress can impair, among other things, normal immune function; A person may first develop allergies and then a cold. Possibly the cold may progress to pneumonia.

Accidents also become more likely for person in this recent life change range. One large study of recent life changes and automobile accidents found that not only did the drivers of the car involved in an accident report an elevated level score for recent life changes, but so did passengers. It appears that our usual care to avoid risks becomes impaired as our immune system during these periods of elevated life change stress.

450 and higher  High Recent Life Changes Score
A high recent life change score means not only that several life changes have occurred but also that some of these changes had very high stress values. This high recent life change stress load is called a “life crisis.” Persons experiencing a life crisis have 2 out of 3 chance of developing one or more illnesses, and/or accidents, during the following year.

The bad news about being a life in crisis is the illness and accident vulnerabilities brought about tend to be severe – such as a heart attack. The good news is that most people do not remain in life crisis for more than a year or two. That’s because subsequent illnesses and accidents demand their attention and they begin to cultivate important stress management and life style coping capabilities.

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