This study was designed to explore the relationship between life events and medical utilization in an academic family practice. Subjects included 268 patients who completed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) to assess recent life events and the PRIME-MD Patient Questionnaire to quantify somatoform symptoms. Medical charts were reviewed for visits and telephone calls to the practice. Subjects with SRRS scores 300 or higher reported significantly more somatoform symptoms (p = 0.0001). Somatoform symptoms were significantly related to total number of visits (p = 0.0001), visits for acute problems (p = 0.0001), and telephone calls (p = 0.0001). SRRS scores were significantly correlated with total number of visits 6 months following study entry (p = 0.01) and number of visits for acute problems (p = 0.05). Since stress from life changes is a significant contributor to symptoms and medical utilization in some patient groups, routine assessment of this risk factor is suggested.