The Life Change Model

The Life Change Model

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The author of this highly rated article is Claire Newton.
Claire Newton is a qualified psychologist, speaker, trainer and coach.
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Change And Your Health
Most of us know that an event need not be of crisis proportions to cause stress. Sometimes seemingly small, everyday events cause stress – and very often this event is some sort of a change in our lives.
Observing this led researchers to study the fact that any life change, even positive changes, can have a detrimental impact on health. The life-change model assumes that all changes in a person’s life – large or small, desirable or undesirable – can act as stressors, and that the accumulation of several small changes can be as powerful as one major change.
To measure the impact of life changes, two researchers (Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe) devised the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), also known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. In this scale, the number of “Life Change Units” (LCUs) that apply to events in the past year of an individual’s life are added. The life change units are in essence stress potential values. That is, they give an indication of how stressed the individual is likely to be, and directly related to that, how many health problems they are likely to experience.
Researchers found that 93% of health problems (infections, allergies, bone and muscle injuries, and psychosomatic illness) affected patients who, during the previous year, had been exposed to events with LCU values totalling 150 or more. Although a minor life change was not sufficient to constitute a serious stressor, the cumulative impact of many events could be considered a crisis. The greater the numbers of LCUs, the greater the risk of illness.  Of those exposed to:

  • Mild crisis (150 – 199 LCUs) – 37% reported illness
  • Moderate crisis (200 – 299 LCUs) – 51% reported illness
  • Major crisis (more than 300 LCUs) – 79% reported illness.

Clearly, change in our lives can be considered stressful, and stressful life events do play some part in producing physical and psychological illness for many people.
Of course we are all unique individuals and so vary in the way we handle change, as well as in our personal interpretation of the change event. Personal characteristics can also modify the impact of the life changes on our health. Many people have illnesses that do not seem to be preceded by identifiable stressors, and others undergo stress but do not seem to get sick.
The Social Readjustment Rating Scale 
Using the Social Readjustment Rating Scale as a guide, assess your own levels of stress and the likelihood of falling ill. Tick all the change events which have happened to you in the past year and add up your score.

Life event

Life change units

Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Imprisonment 63
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain a new family member 39
Business readjustment 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family reunions 15
Change in eating habits 15
Vacation 13
Christmas 12
Minor violation of law 11

Score of 300+: At strong risk of illness.
Score of 150-299: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk).
Score of less than 150: Only slight risk of illness.
A modified scale has also been developed for non-adults. Similar to the adult scale, stress points for life events in the past year are added and compared to the rough estimate of how stress affects health.

Life Event

Life Change Units

Death of parent 100
Unplanned pregnancy/abortion 100
Getting married 95
Divorce of parents 90
Acquiring a visible deformity 80
Fathering a child 70
Jail sentence of parent for over one year 70
Marital separation of parents 69
Death of a brother or sister 68
Change in acceptance by peers 67
Unplanned pregnancy of sister 64
Discovery of being an adopted child 63
Marriage of parent to stepparent 63
Death of a close friend 63
Having a visible congenital deformity 62
Serious illness requiring hospitalization 58
Failure of a grade in school 56
Not making an extracurricular activity 55
Hospitalization of a parent 55
Jail sentence of parent for over 30 days 53
Breaking up with boyfriend or girlfriend 53
Beginning to date 51
Suspension from school 50
Becoming involved with drugs or alcohol 50
Birth of a brother or sister 50
Increase in arguments between parents 47
Loss of job by parent 46
Outstanding personal achievement 46
Change in parent’s financial status 45
Accepted at college of choice 43
Being a senior in high school 42
Hospitalization of a sibling 41
Increased absence of parent from home 38
Brother or sister leaving home 37
Addition of third adult to family 34
Becoming a fully- fledged member of a church 31
Decrease in arguments between parents 27
Decrease in arguments with parents 26
Mother or father beginning work 26

Score of 300+: At strong risk of illness.
Score of 150-299: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk).
Score of less than 150: Slight risk of illness.

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