The age of stress: Science and the search for stability

April 11, 2013

Today, many people consider stress to be part of life, yet most of us have little understanding of what the concept means or where it comes from. In his new book The Age of Stress, University of Exeter historian Professor Mark Jackson explores the history of scientific studies of stress and how stress became a buzzword of the modern world.

The book reveals how the science of and our experiences of have both been shaped by a wide range of socio-political and cultural, as well as biological, factors. The book provides a history of changing understandings of stress since the late nineteenth century and an outline of its ever-widening application in the diagnosis of problems of individual disease, workloads, social change and international relations.

Professor Jackson said: "Historically, major life changes, such as divorce, economic debt, bereavement, moving house or changing jobs, were thought to generate instability and stress, with the risk of illness and . For this reason, stress has been seen as an unavoidable aspect of modern living. At the same time, the term stress operates as a metaphor, capturing the uncertainty and instability of families, communities and political regimes in a troubled world."

Although a link between stress and disease has been recognised for over 150 years, our modern understanding of stress can be traced to the work of the Hungarian scientist Hans Selye, whose theories provide a major focus for the book. During the 1930s and 1940s, Selye began to suggest that the failure to cope effectively with stress might explain the appearance of many , such as heart disease, cancer, and asthma. Selye's theories were not always accepted by other scientists and clinicians but they rapidly became a popular way of explaining patterns of illness.

Clare Matterson, Director of and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, commented: "Mark's book will offer a rich resource for academics, as well as appealing to a wider audience interested in how our understanding of stress in its scientific and cultural contexts has developed throughout the past century. Tackling the subject from a historical perspective, the book promises fresh insights into something we can all relate to in today's stressful world."

Explore further: High to moderate levels of stress lead to higher mortality rate

More information: Link to the book page for more information: ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199588626.do

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Oxytocin enhances spirituality, new study says

September 21, 2016

Oxytocin has been dubbed the "love hormone" for its role promoting social bonding, altruism and more. Now new research from Duke University suggests the hormone may also support spirituality.

Study reveals a biological link between stress and obesity

September 21, 2016

Metabolic and anxiety-related disorders both pose a significant healthcare burden, and are in the spotlight of contemporary research and therapeutic efforts. Although intuitively we assume that these two phenomena overlap, ...

Men with anxiety are more likely to die of cancer, study says

September 20, 2016

Men over 40 who are plagued with the omnipresent of generalized anxiety disorder are more than twice as likely to die of cancer than are men who do not have the mental affliction, new research finds. But for women who suffer ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.