The Top 10 Daily Hassles

by Jerry Kennard, Ph.D. Medical Reviewer

We become stressed for a number of reasons and there's a general consensus that major events in our life contribute to this. But many of us feel the effects of stress daily, so it's clear that something must be causing this. In this sharepost I look at a couple of approaches to the identification and measurement of things that make us stressed.

One of the most influential approaches to the measurement of stress was devised by Holmes and Rahe in 1967. Their approach was to consider a series of life events that require most people to make psychological adjustments. The resulting Social Readjustment Rating Scale provided a list of life events, against which a points value was allocated depending on the perceived level of stress. For example, 100 points was allocated for the death of a spouse whereas 12 points was allocated for the effects of a vacation, such as Christmas.

The popularity of this and subsequent scales remains high, but they are not without problems. For example, many of the higher scores involve events and situations that most average people are unlikely to encounter regularly. The top five stressful situations on the 1967 Holmes and Rahe scale include death of a spouse (100 points), divorce (73 points), marital separation (65 points), jail term (63 points) and death of a close family member (63 points). Leaving aside the comparatively low likelihood of such encounters, if we consider just one of these (death of a spouse), the uniformity of the score suggests that everyone responds in exactly the same way. We know this simply isn't the case.

The desire to devise something that reflected the day-to-day experiences of people, prompted Allen Kanner and colleagues to examine the variation of activities to which people are exposed and the stress they experience as a result. From this, Kanner produced two scales. The hassles scale, which reflected daily annoyances and frustrations and the uplifts scale, reflecting things that make people feel better.

Subsequent research has provided a number of profiles from different populations (e.g. adults, students) in various countries. In one survey by Kanner at al (1981), 100 middle-aged adults were tested over a nine month period. The top six most frequent hassles to emerge were:

Concerns about weight.

Health of a family member.

Rising price of common goods.

Home maintenance.

Too many things to do.

Misplacing or losing things.

A later survey conducted by Chamberlain and Zika (1990) in New Zealand, found a slightly different picture. In order of priority, their results revealed the following top ten daily hassles:

Not enough time.

Too many things to do.

Troubling thoughts about the future.

Too many interruptions.

Misplacing or losing things.

Health of a family member.

Social obligations.

Concerns about standards.

Concerns about getting ahead.

Too many responsibilities.

Does the hassles scale do better than the Readjustment Rating Scale? Well, yes and no. The hassles scale certainly appears to come closer to the everyday stressors most of us experience. The drip-drip effect of stress is well accepted and seems, to some extent, to be reflected in such a scale. However, the theoretical problems have not gone away. Some argue that the items on the scale remain rather vague and arbitrary and more likely to assess neuroticism rather than stress. In turn, this leads to problems in how to properly interpret the results of such a scale.

Although still used, recent trends suggest a move away from standardized scales and more towards structured interviews. Scales might be helpful to form an initial impression, but proper interpretation requires a more detailed examination with the person concerned, in order to see the world through their eyes.


Chamberlain, K. and Zika, S. (1990) The minor events approach to stress: support for the use of daily hassles. British Journal of Psychology, 81: 469-81.

Kanner, A.D., Coyne, J. C., Schaefer, C., & Lazarus, R.S. (1981). Comparison of two modes of stress measurement: Daily hassles and uplifts versus major life events. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4, 1-39.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s work background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of