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Top 10 Causes of Stress

author image Amber Keefer
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.
Top 10 Causes of Stress
People can react differently to stressful situations.

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress has many different causes, which can vary from person to person. A situation or condition that bothers one person might not worry another person at all. Some individuals get stressed easily while others need several different stressful events before they begin to feel the physical or psychological effects. Although what individuals find stressful may differ, there are some common stressors.

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Childhood Trauma

Some individuals experience long-term stress as a result of a traumatic childhood. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, milestone research in 1998, found that difficult emotional experiences as a child can cause physical stress on the body throughout life. Children who live in abusive homes, or who grow up living with an alcoholic or drug abuser often suffer more psychological stress throughout adulthood.

Death of a Loved One

The Holmes-Raye Social Readjustment Rating Scale shows that the death of a spouse can be one of the most stressful events a person can face. Stress is made worse when a couple owes a lot of debts and the remaining spouse must worry about finances on top of grieving the loss of a spouse. Issues can be compounded even more if someone loses a spouse while there are still minor children living at home.


Divorce is another leading cause of stress among men and women, this according to the Holmes-Raye scale. In addition to dealing with a variety of stressful emotions, divorce usually means that one or both spouses must leave their home. Individuals also may be dealing disagreements involving division of property, finances, child support and custody issues.


Finances, particularly mortgage foreclosures, are another leading cause of stress ranking at the top of the Holmes-Raye stress assessment scale. People who live in poverty, and individuals who face overwhelming debt or bankruptcy usually experience high levels of stress.


Work-related stress is common among men and women who have demanding jobs and work long hours. Workers also tend to be more stressed during poor economic times when they worry about layoffs or a reduction in hours.


Personal health issues can be stressful on both children and adults. Working to get well, worrying about medical costs or dealing with an unexpected health crisis or chronic illness can all bring on stress. The sad part is that stress itself contributes to disease. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that within the next 10 years, stress-related conditions like depression will rank as the second leading cause of disability worldwide.

Personal Relationships

Everyone is stressed at times by personal relationships, even when relationships are basically good. Couples argue, parents and children fight and occasionally conflict among friends or co-workers can create stress.

Chronically Ill Child

Parents who have a child with a serious health problem or injury frequently are under a great deal of stress. They worry about the recovery of their child, and may find it difficult to see their child suffering or in pain. There can be financial worries associated with a child’s illness as well.


Pregnancy, too, can be a stressful event. This is particularly true of pregnancies which were not planned, or pregnancies that result in serious complications for the mother, child or both. Another problem is that sometimes couples realize that they are not as ready financially or emotionally for a child as they thought they were.


Dangerous situations such as fires, automobile accidents or being the victim of crime can cause stress. Any hazardous event that is out of the ordinary for an individual can cause either short- or long-term physical or emotional stress.

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