Holmes and Rahe stress scale

How Stressful is Diabetes?



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One of the reasons I slow down on writing this blog is that diabetes is stressful! While I think it’s important to share my experiences to help others, there are certainly days where I just want to live my life and not think about diabetes.

Unfortunately, there is never a day or even a single meal I eat where I don’t think about my diabetes. There is no way to get away from it. This can lead to diabetes burn out.

Measuring the Stress of Diabetes

There is a Holmes and Rahe stress scale that lists stressful events. Each event has a relative score. You add up the events that happened to determine how much stress you experienced, and if you get a high enough number, that’s an indicator that the stress itself can cause an illness! Yes, you can get sick from stress.

Adding up the Stress

The stress of “Dealing with Diabetes” can be added up like this:

Life EventLife Change Units
Personal injury or illness53
Revision of personal habits24
Change in eating habits15

Do any of these other life events also apply?

Diabetes is expensive. Is the cost of insulin and diabetic supplies causing financial stress? Add 38 points.

Are you waking up in the middle of the night from low blood sugar or insulin pump alarms? Add 16 points for this change in your sleeping habits.

Did you change your social activities due to diabetes? Add 18 points. Did you change what you do for fun because of diabetes? Add 19 points.

Life EventLife Change Units
Change in financial state38
Change in social activities18
Change in sleeping habits16
Change in recreation19

What about additional stress?

Last year, we also dealt with Covid 19 and are still dealing with coronavirus in 2021. If diabetes wasn’t the cause for some of these events, the pandemic sure may have caused them. A “Change in number of family reunions” is worth 15 points. Check out the complete Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale to see what else may apply.

Stress Experienced by Family Members

The stress of diabetes is not just stressing out the person with diabetes, but also often adds significant stress on spouses, parents, and other family members. “Change in health of family member” is rated at 44 points.

Stress Coping is an important part of Diabetes Self Care

It is clear that the stress of diabetes can be measured using this famous scale that was created in 1967 by the psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe.

What is less clear is how to turn this situation around. Stress is not something discussed when I see my doctor about diabetes, but perhaps it should be. Holmes & Rahe’s research was about stress causing physical illness. Perhaps there should be more emphasis on reducing diabetes stress for overall improved health.

For Further Reading


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