The Stress Chart That Calculates How Likely It Is That You’re Going to Have a Breakdown

One place where you don’t want to be doing numbers
The Stress Chart That Calculates How Likely It Is That You’re Going to Have a Breakdown

Describing yourself as “stressed out” feels like something with a massive spectrum of severity. Its weird that the same words could mean someone having a tough time in an escape room and a soon-to-be parent. Obviously, one has much more at stake than the other: Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to make the employees let you out of an escape room? What stress needs, then, is a genuine quantifier. I dont want to just say “Im super stressed,” I want to say “Im literally 55 percent of the way to my mental breaking point.”

Luckily, Ive discovered that there is an actual chart for just that. Its called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, developed in 1967 by two psychiatrists named Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. It takes a swath of stressful life changes and assigns them a point value based on how much they fuck up your life. Add up all the applicable hardships youve been going through over the past year and compare your score to see if the amount of stress youre under is putting you at medical risk. 

One hundred and fifty points or less? You might not be having a great time, but youre not in medical danger. One hundred and fifty to 300 points? Warning signs are going up for a 50-percent chance of a physical health breakdown in the next two years. Tip the scales at 300 points or more? Were now talking in the realm of 80 percent, and, honestly, my condolences for the last year.

Thomas Holmes & Richard Rahe


Heres some sample point values and the connected events if youre not big on squinting:

  • Major Change in Sleeping Habits: 16 points
  • Taking on a Loan: 17 points
  • Troubles with the Boss: 23 points
  • Major Change in Living Condition: 25 points
  • Being Fired at Work: 47 points
  • Death of Spouse: 100 points (the highest point value possible)

Even understanding that the bar here is a medical breakdown, these numbers do still feel a little low. If I move and get fired in rapid succession, I dont feel like Id be thinking, “I could only do that one more time before things are really going to get stressful.” At the same time, I guess they arent messing around when they say 150 points could send your cerebellum and body into actual physical disrepair.

The good news is, if youre someone with a particularly woebegone group of friends, you can now actually calculate whos having the worst time. Did Holmes and Rahe intend to gamify stress when they invented this scale in the 1960s? Probably not, but thats the point of everything now, baby! From now on, Im monitoring my stress levels like its a stamina gauge.

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