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Daily Hassles

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Daily Hassles

Life changes and daily hassles are both sources of stress in life. However, for psychologists studying the effects of stress on health, the difference between these sources is important. Given how much the modern world has changed in the last 100 years, we must pay close attention to how this stress affects the body and mind.

First, we will look at what life changes are, the research that proves the link between life changes and stress and evaluate that research. Then we will look at the day-to-day issues.

Sources of stress: life changes

Life changes refer to significant events such as marriage, the birth of a child, and the death of a loved one. Positive and negative life events can cause stress as we have to adjust physically and mentally. The more life events a person experiences, the more stressed they are likely to feel.

Daily Hassles, wedding, StudySmarterNegative and positive life changes (such as marriage) bring stress, pixabay.com

Research about life changes and stress

Many psychologists have addressed the role of stress in our lives and its effects, most notably Holmes and Rahe (1967) and Rahe et al. (1970).

Holmes and Rahe (1967)

Holmes and Rahe (1967) developed a self-report questionnaire called ‘The Social Readjustment Rating Scale’ (SRRS).The scale contains 43 life events, each assigned a score (the score is a measure of how severe the event is).

‘Death of spouse’ has a maximum score of 100. Some examples of life events in the scale are ‘Divorce (76)’, ‘Jail term (63)’, ‘Change in financial situation (38)’, ‘Christmas approaching (12)’.

A person would check off all the events they have experienced in the past year to get an overall score. For example, ‘Change in financial situation’ and ‘Christmas approaching’ would give a total score of 50.

  1. A total score of 150 or less indicates a low level of stress and a low likelihood of developing a stress-related illness.

  2. A score of 150 to 299 indicates a moderate stress level with a 50% chance of developing a stress-related illness.

  3. A score of 300 or more indicates a high-stress level with an 80% probability of developing a stress-related illness.

Rahe et al. (1970)

Rahe et al. (1970) examined the relationship between life changes and illness.

They asked 2500 US Navy men to complete the SRRS and indicate the life changes they had experienced in the previous six months. After that, the US Navy men embarked on their cruises (from sic to eight months), where records were taken each time they reported being unwell to a medical officer.

The participants and medical officers were unaware of the study goals, so there were no requirement characteristics.

Results showed a significant positive correlation of .118 between total score and illness, indicating that life changes are associated with stress and illness.

Evaluation

In light of the above research, we need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of theories that revolve around life events and everyday difficulties in psychology.

Strengths

  • Lietzen et al. (2011) investigated whether life changes influence the occurrence of asthma.16,881 participants completed a survey about stressful life events. The researchers found an association between stressful life events and asthma onset, both in participants with and without preexisting allergic rhinitis. So this study confirms the link between life changes, stress and the development of a disease (in this case, asthma).

  • Overall, the scales are useful because they demonstrate a link between life events/daily hassles, the stress they cause, and the development of a disease or disorder.

Weaknesses

  • Stress measures such as the SRRS do not consider individual circumstances that lead to life changes.

    For example, if someone succeeds in divorcing their abusive partner, this event is not stressful for them.

    Such circumstances undermine the validity of the link between life changes and stress.

  • Studies of the effects of life changes on stress are only correlational. We can only say an association exists between the two, not that there is a clear cause-and-effect relationship.

  • Positive and negative life events are considered equally influential; however, research shows people perceive negative life events as more stressful. Turner and Wheaton (1995) asked participants to rate the desirability of events they checked off on the SRRS and found that negative events caused the most stress.

Sources of stress: daily hassles meaning

What is the meaning of daily hassles?

Daily hassles are small but frequent events that can cause stress.

Examples of daily hassles include bus delays and arguments in marriage.

Lazarus (1980) suggested daily hassles are a greater source of stress than life events because they frequently occur, while life events occur infrequently. When confronted with a daily hassle, a person makes two appraisals of the situation.

  1. The first is the primary appraisal, in which one considers how threatening a situation is to one’s well-being.

  2. When a person rated a situation as threatening, they make a secondary appraisal – the person considers whether they can handle the situation.

Daily Hassles daily hassles and stress StudySmarterA stressed man, pixabay.com

There seems to be a link between life changes and daily hassles. When someone experiences or has recently experienced a life event, the effects of daily hassles are magnified. A daily hassle that was previously well managed may stress someone already stressed by a life event.

The difference between life changes and daily hassles

Life changes are indirect sources of stress (distal source); the event itself brings many hassles (e.g. having a baby brings the hassles of sleepless nights, etc.). Daily hassles are direct sources of stress (proximal source).

Research about daily hassles and stress

Several areas of research have examined the effects of daily hassles on stress.

Kanner et al. (1981)

Kanner et al. (1981) examined whether daily hassles were a greater source of stress than life changes. 100 participants took part in this study. Participants had to:

  • Complete hassles and uplifts scale each month for nine months ( uplifts are events that make one feel better, such as spending time with friends). The hassles scale included 117 items, and the uplifts scale included 135 items

  • Complete a questionnaire similar to the SRRS about life changes at baseline and after month ten

  • Complete the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist, a checklist of psychological symptoms at months two and ten

  • Complete the Bradburn Morale Scale, a psychological well-being scale completed each month for nine months.

Results showed a significant positive correlation between the frequency of daily hassles and psychological symptoms. Daily hassles were a much better predictor of stress than life changes.

Difference between daily hassles and daily uplifts

Uplifts are pleasant daily events. Uplifts evoke positive emotions such as joy, relief, or satisfaction.

Examples of daily uplifts include managing your workload and finding your work meaningful, having enough free time, or having positive interactions with loved ones.

Hassles evoke negative emotions such as frustration. Hassles can be overwhelming or annoying and can lead to low moods. After some time, the stress adds up and can have a negative impact on your health.

Events that give you a sense of satisfaction or joy daily can act as a buffer against stress and protect you from the negative effects of stress.

DeLongis et al. (1988) – combined hassles and uplifts scale

DeLongis et al. (1988) developed a combined 53-item hassles and uplifts scale that assesses how an event during the day was a hassle or an uplift to a person. The scale acknowledges both stressful daily events and the relief they provide.

Previous studies have used two separate questionnaires, a 117-item scale to assess hassles and a 135-item scale to assess uplifts (Kanner et al., 1981). DeLongis developed a revised, 53-item, shorter scale combining the two scales.

The scale consists of 53 items that measure people’s attitudes toward various aspects of their lives on a given day. The Hassles and Uplifts Scale, unlike previous measures of stress, recognises the role of everyday events (rather than just major, life-changing events) in predicting our health outcomes.

Daily Hassles, Hassles and Uplifts Scale, StudySmarterDemonstration of the Hassles and Uplifts Scale, Alicja Blaszkiewicz - StudySmarter

Respondents rate each item twice: first, how much of a hassle an item has been for them that day, and second, how uplifting it was that day.

Hassles and uplifts scale scoring

The scale is scored by adding up the uplift ratings on each item and subtracting hassles ratings on each item from the total. The hassles and uplifts are measured on a spectrum from 0 (none) to 3 (a great deal).

An item rated two on the uplift spectrum and three on the hassle spectrum would be scored as -1.

A positive final score indicates a greater proportion of uplifting events that day, while a negative score suggests greater levels of hassles (stresses) on that day, which can negatively impact mental and physical health.

They found no relationship between life events and illness but did find a correlation between daily hassles and next day illnesses. They suggested that daily hassles had more of an impact on general health and wellbeing than major life events.

Hassles, uplifts and health outcomes

So what outcomes can the hassles and uplifts scale predict?

DeLongis et al. (1982) – Hassles and physical health

DeLongis et al. (1982) examined the relationship between daily hassles and uplifts and reported somatic health in a sample of 100 middle-aged Americans.

  • They examined participants monthly for nine months.

  • The researchers found that ratings of daily hassles remained consistent across nine months.

  • Daily problems were more strongly related to health than major life events over the nine months.

  • Both intensity and frequency of hassles were related to health, while uplifts had little effect on physical health.

Bouteyre et al. 2007 - Hassles and depression in students

Bouteyre et al. (2007) tested 233 French first-year psychology students with a revised Hassles and Uplifts Scale, which was more relevant to undergraduates, and their depressive symptoms using a Beck Depression Inventory questionnaire.

  • They found a significant positive correlation between daily hassles and depressive symptoms. Students who described aspects of their daily lives as a greater deal of hassle also exhibited more depressive symptoms.

Hassles and uplifts scale evaluation

We must understand the strengths and weaknesses of the hassles and uplifts scale.

  • Unlike other scales (SRSS), the hassles and uplifts scale also measures positive events. Positive events can act as a buffer and make us more resilient to daily stresses. Including positive events in the scale is also important because of response bias – participants tend to respond positively when self-reporting, which can skew results. Asking about both positive and negative events gives us a better picture of a person’s stress level.
  • Memory – our memory is contextual, meaning we are likely to remember more negative events when we are in a bad mood and more positive events when we are in a good mood. Therefore, our responses on the scale are not always objective and reliable.
  • The scale only measures a person’s attitude on a given day. The frequency of hassles and uplifts may vary from day to day, so our scores may differ depending on the day we use the scale.
  • Some questions are not relevant for certain groups. The scale consists of questions related to work, spouses, intimate relationships, children, or substance use, making the scale less relevant for university students or children. It has problems with individual differences, as not everyone has the same opinion about how stressful something can be and therefore will handle and manage it differently.
  • Correlational evidence – research on hassles and uplifts relies on correlational evidence. It is possible that the relationship between stress and appraisal of daily events is bidirectional or that many other factors influence both.
  • Length of the questionnaire – when completing long questionnaires, participants may become tired, lose interest, or stop paying attention to their answers. The questionnaires used in early research contained hundreds of questions. The revised shorter version is more practical and reliable.
  • Unreliable – because it is self-report, we cannot entirely rely on the results, as people may lie or suggest they are coping better with stress than they actually are. The perception of stress also differs due to cultural differences among people, and the scale is ethnocentric. It is biased toward Western views.

Daily Hassles evaluation

Let us look at the strengths and weaknesses of stress and daily hassles in psychological research.

Strengths

  • Ivancevich (1986) examined the relationship between daily hassles/uplifts and life changes on general health symptoms, work performance, and absenteeism in a study of 185 hourly workers.

  • The results showed that daily hassles were a much better predictor of general health than life changes. Thus, this study supports the link between daily hassles and stress. Daily hassles may be a much better predictor of stress than life changes.

  • The Hassles and Uplifts Scale recognises how an uplift can affect a person’s day and offset the effects of an upset. This affects how much stress is on a person, as a spilt coffee on your new shirt can be offset by good news from a friend or family member or a nice outing.

Weaknesses

  • Studies about daily hassles often require participants to recall what they experienced over a period of time, and also usually rely on self-report data. Because annoyances are relatively minor events, they can often be forgotten or misremembered, thus questioning the validity and reliability of research on the relationship between daily hassles and stress.

  • As with life changes, the results of this study are only correlational, so cause and effect cannot be established.


Daily Hassles - Key takeaways

  • Life changes and daily hassles are both sources of stress.
  • Life changes refer to major events such as a marriage, the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one. Both positive and negative life changes can cause stress because of the physical and psychological adjustments needed to cope with both. The more life events a person experiences, the more likely they are to experience stress.
  • Holmes and Rahe (1967) developed a self-report questionnaire called ‘The Social Readjustment Rating Scale’ (SRRS) to assess life changes experienced and stress levels.
  • Rahe et al. (1970) conducted a study of US Navy men. They found a significant positive correlation between the number of life changes experienced in the previous six months and illness.
  • Everyday difficulties are small but frequent events that can cause stress, such as being late for the bus or fighting in a marriage.
  • Lazarus (1980) suggested that daily hassles are a greater source of stress than life events because these hassles frequently occur, while life events occur infrequently.
  • When confronted with a daily hassle, a person makes two appraisals of the situation. The first is the ‘primary appraisal’, i.e., when someone considers how threatening a situation is to their well-being. If a person judges a situation as threatening, they make a ‘secondary appraisal’, where they consider whether they can cope with the situation.
  • Kanner et al. (1981) found that daily hassles were a much better predictor of stress than life changes.
  • DeLongis et al. (1988) also found that daily hassles had a greater impact on stress disorder development than life events. Still, that daily uplifts impacted how stressful a day was overall.
  • DeLongis et al. (1988) developed a combined 53-item hassles and uplifts scale that assesses how much an event is a hassle or an uplift to a person during the day. The scale captured both stressful daily events and the uplifts that accompany them. Daily hassles were more strongly related to health than significant life events over a nine-month test period.

Frequently Asked Questions about Daily Hassles

Some examples of daily hassles are the train being late when you are going to work, having an argument with a friend, children not listening to you.

Daily hassles are minor but frequent events that can cause stress. 

Daily hassles are usually measured by completing a questionnaire about what daily hassles you have experienced during a set time, e.g., the past six months.

Daily hassles are a big source of stress because these hassles happen frequently. Like life changes, daily hassles can accumulate, leading to more and more stress.

The hassles and uplifts scale measures how frustrating and stressful versus how uplifting people evaluate their daily experiences to be.

Final Daily Hassles Quiz

Question

What are life changes?

Show answer

Answer

Life changes refer to significant events such as marriage, the birth of a child, and the death of a loved one.

Show question

Question

Are both positive and negative life changes a source of stress?

Show answer

Answer

Yes.

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Question

What did Holmes and Rahe (1967) develop?

Show answer

Answer

A self-report questionnaire called ‘The Social Readjustment Rating Scale’ (SRRS).

Show question

Question

What were Rahe et al.’s (1970) findings?

Show answer

Answer

There was a significant positive correlation of .118 between total life changes scores and illness. This finding indicates life changes are associated with stress and illness. 

Show question

Question

What are three weaknesses of life changes as a source of stress?

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Answer

Measures of stress such as the SRRS do not consider individual circumstances to a life change, which weakens the validity of the link between life changes and stress. Research into the effects of life changes on stress is only correlational. Positive and negative life changes are considered equally impactful; however, there is research that people consider negative life changes as being more stressful.

Show question

Question

What are daily hassles?

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Answer

Minor but frequent events causing stress, such as bus delays, marriage arguments.

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Question

Did Lazarus (1980) propose daily hassles to be a bigger source of stress than life changes?

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Answer

Yes, Lazarus (1980) suggested that daily hassles are a greater source of stress than life events because they happen frequently, whilst life events are rare.

Show question

Question

According to Lazarus (1980), what are the two appraisals a person goes through when encountering daily hassles?

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Answer

The first is ‘primary appraisal’, i.e., when someone considers how threatening a situation is to their well-being. If a situation is deemed threatening, then ‘secondary appraisal’ is engaged when the person considers if they can cope with the situation.  

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Question

What is the link between life changes and daily hassles?

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Answer

If someone is experiencing or has recently experienced a life event, the effect of daily hassles will increase.

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Question

Are life changes a direct (proximal) or indirect (distal) source of stress?

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Answer

Indirect (distal).

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Question

What were the Kanner et al. (1981) findings?

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Answer

They found significant positive correlations between the frequency of daily hassles and psychological symptoms. Daily hassles were a much better predictor of stress compared to life changes.

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Question

Why is asking participants to recall what daily hassles they experienced a weakness?

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Answer

As hassles are quite little events, they may often be forgotten or misremembered, which questions the validity and reliability of the research into the link between daily hassles and stress.

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