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Contact: Esther White
pressoffice@exeter.ac.uk
44-139-272-2307
University of Exeter

The age of stress: Science and the search for stability

Stress - a modern day issue?

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 stress and our experiences of stressful life events 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 unhappiness. 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 chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, rheumatism 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 Medical Humanities 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."

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'The Age of Stress' is a scholarly publication which took ten years to research and write. The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the book is published by Oxford University Press.

Editors Notes:

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

About the Wellcome Trust:

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk

About Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

The Oxford History list boasts a superb selection of prominent and award-winning authors, writing about a range of historical periods and themes. From essential reference works to leading scholarship, History from Oxford provides an outstanding array of titles for all your research needs. http://www.oup.com/uk/history

About the University of Exeter

The Sunday Times University of the Year 2012-13, the University of Exeter is a Russell Group university and in the top one percent of institutions globally. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 18,000 students and is ranked 7th in The Sunday Times University Guide, 10th in the UK in The Times Good University Guide 2012 and 10th in the Guardian University Guide. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 90% of the University's research was rated as being at internationally recognised levels and 16 of its 31 subjects are ranked in the top 10, with 27 subjects ranked in the top 20.

The University has invested strategically to deliver more than 350 million worth of new facilities across its campuses for 2012, including landmark new student services centres - the Forum in Exeter and The Exchange in Cornwall - and world-class new facilities for Biosciences, the Business School and the Environment and Sustainability Institute. http://www.exeter.ac.uk

For further information:

University of Exeter
Press Office



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