The series comprised 253 hospitalized patients with 3 groups of patients with low back pain differing in respect to the presence of nerve root compression, and 2 headache groups, i.e., migraine and other non-organic headache. Comparison of the frequency of single life events within the previous 12 months revealed no statistically significant differences among the diagnostic groups. Nor were there any statistically significant differences among the means of the total number of life events, the number of life events with transient distress and the number of life events with enduring distress. Self-rated treatment outcome on pain 6 months after discharge showed for headache patients a statistically significant negative association between persistence of pain and the number of life events with transient distress. In conclusion the findings attach more weight to vulnerability factors or coping abilities compared to social stress.