Abstract Long-term exposure to escapable foot shock has been used to determine if chronic stress influences neuronal cell death in the retina of albino and pigmented rats. Histopathologic and morphometric approaches analyzed changes in photoreceptors and neurons of the bipolar and ganglion cell layers of the retina. Albino Fischer rats when exposed to chronic stress for 4–8 h daily for 1 week to 6 months, developed severe retinal damage, as compared to unstressed control retinas, with reduction in photoreceptor and bipolar neurons, particularly in the superior central retina. The damage was observed in male and female rats, but males appeared to be more susceptible to the influence of stress than female animals. Ganglion cells were unaffected. Photoreceptor destruction did not occur in Long-Evans pigmented rats under identical experimental conditions. The results suggest that: (1) input of the sensory stimulus, light, to the retina of stressed rats augmented neuronal damage and might be required for its initiation; and (2) hormones and/or neurotransmitters associated with long-term chronic stress might be related to increased neuronal cell death in the mammalian retina.