DRHOOK- Count on it: Stressful experiences add up

the handsome doctor John Hong

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is a very interesting movie. Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar for best actress in 1975. (But she wasn't there! I could have had Ebola virus and would still have shown up. Martin Scorsese, the director, accepted the Oscar for her.) 

In this movie, her spouse dies at work. She hasn't worked in years but needs to work to support her son and herself. She moves to a different state to find work as a singer. Can you say, "stressful"? 

Does life just seem to beat us up at times?

In medical school, we learned about the Homes and Rahe Stress Scale. It really isn't used, but it was brought to our attention to some life events can really affect a person's mental (and physical) well-being. 

Death of a spouse is rated at the top: 100 points. (Well, unless you're OJ Simpson.) In the movie, Alice is stricken with grief, loneliness, financial hardship— and, in my opinion, a really, really, really annoying son. 

Divorce is #2 at 73 points; marital separation is 65 points. When Tammy Wynette sang D-I-V-O-R-C-E, she should have added S-T-R-E-S-S makes me want to S-C-R-E-A-M. Mind you, this stress scale was designed in the 1960s, and things were different then. They didn't have a 60 percent divorce rate back then. 

This is interesting: going to jail is as stressful as the death of a close family member. Both are 63 points. I would think death of a child would be at least 100 points.

Personal injury or illness is 53 points. This I am sure can become even more stressful if it leads to dismissal at work (47 points). It's very true that if you don't have good health, life becomes very tough. Change in the health of a family member is 44 points.

Marriage nets 50 points! Maybe that show Bridezilla is real after all! Maybe that's why so many people do an Elvis wedding in Las Vegas– to reduce the stress. "Love me tender, love me–" Problems in the bedroom? 39 points. 

Okay, can we talk about me for a minute, please? I'm moving out of state (20 points for change in residence), selling and buying a house (major mortgage, 32 points), getting a new job (business readjustment, 39 points; change in responsibilities at work– 29 points), finding a new figure skating club (change in recreation, 19 points), insomnia from stress (16 points). And this was all happening over Christmas (Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus– and 12 points). 

Bad economy = bad days. Change in financial status is 38 points; a foreclosure 30 points. Trouble with the boss, 23 points; change in working hours or conditions, 20 points; spouse starts or stops work, 26 points. People are cutting back on things, and revision of personal habits (hopefully, one of which is quitting smoking) is 24 points.

Change in frequency of arguments is 35 points (how many points for fighting every day?). This is the terrible fact: pregnant women are at higher risk of domestic violence. Why? It also seems some men cheat on their wives when they're pregnant. Egad! No wonder pregnancy is 40 points. Adding a new member of the family is 39 points. 

Alice doesn't live here anymore, and I see why! It's important to have a good support system, get some exercise, eat right, and take care of yourself when life throws curveballs at you. Change is inevitable, but it's also an opportunity. At the same time, I can't wait until I retire– even though that's 45 points.


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.