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Exhausted? Join the world's oldest club

A book exploring exhaustion by a Kent author reveals we are not the only culture to struggle with it, and this struggle is not limited to modern times

University of Kent


IMAGE: This is Dr. Anna Katharina Schaffner. view more

Credit: Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner

In her new book, Exhaustion: A History (Columbia University Press, 2016), Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner, Reader in Comparative Literature and Medical Humanities, in the University's School of European Culture and Languages, says 'burnout' and worries about work life balance were known to different eras by different terms.

Dr Schaffner says we do live in an exhausting age but she was surprised to find that there was a substantial body of evidence to show other ages have been preoccupied by the same worry though it may have been called something else.

In her book, Dr Schaffner examines how every age battles with its own historically specific challenges. Anxieties about exhaustion, and the loss of physical and mental energies, are present both in fiction and in the medical, theological, and philosophical literature from classical antiquity onwards. Exhaustion is a timeless concern related to fears about death, illnesses, and the gradual waning of our energies as we age.

She concludes that though today we do live in an exhausting age, and there is much to justify debates about burnout, work-life balance, and how other cultural factors affect our energy resources, ours is by no means the only age that has had to struggle with anxieties about technological, political, and cultural change.


Dr Schaffner has been interviewed by the US magazine, Psychology Today [4]. [5]

For further information or interview requests contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office.
Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879

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Notes to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 23rd in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

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