October 1971

Scaling of Life Events

Author Affiliations

New Haven, Conn; Chicago
From the departments of psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn (Dr. Paykel and Mrs. Prusoff), and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Chicago (Dr. Uhlenhuth). Dr. Paykel is now at the Department of Psychiatry, St. George's Hospital, London.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1971;25(4):340-347. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1971.01750160052010

Varied subjects were asked to judge, on a 0 to 20 scale, the degree to which 61 life events were upsetting. Mean event scores covered almost the entire scale range and ranked in a meaningful way. At the top end of the scale were catastrophic and highly distressing events such as deaths of child or spouse. At the bottom of the scale were events which were either trivial, or important but desirable and not distressing. Consistency of the scaling indicated acceptable interrater reliability. Individual variability reflected in standard deviations was moderate. Agreement across groups was high, although there were small differences due to sociodemographic group, item order, and recent experience of the event. Consensus scaling of events may facilitate use of a quantified methodology in empirical studies of life stress.