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C5 Stress and Stress-Relief (project completed)

The Concept of Stress and Stress-Relief in a Transcultural Perspective: an Ethno-Epidemiological Study

Koordination: William S. Sax, Wolfgang Eckart, Joachim Fischer





The concept of 'stress' emerged in Western medical discourse not even a century ago and was associated with a modern, urban-industrial fast-paced work- and life-style. Soon after World War II 'stress' turned into the dominant issue in professional and lay discourse on the predicament of modern success-oriented societies, and triggered a growing demand for 'stress-relieving' techniques and products. With (neoliberal) globalisation this Western life-style is spreading across the globe, especially into the Asian growth economies, and so is – allegedly – the Western concept 'stress'. At the same time, Asian meditation techniques are advertised as traditional Eastern remedies for 'stressed' Westerners.

Our project adopts an interdisciplinary approach combining historical, anthropological and epidemiological (biomedical/statistical) methodologies to study the processes underlying the transcultural flow of stress and stress relief techniques between Europe and South Asia. We investigate from a historical perspective how in the West ‘stress’ developed as a medical concept since the late 19th century (Saskia Rohmer); the anthropological subprojects study how people experience and describe their lives in extremely stressful settings such as factories in Bangladesh (Hasan Ashraf, Christian Strümpell) and how Buddhist techniques are applied to cope with suffering and increase resilience in India as well as in Europe (Nike-Ann Schröder); while the epidemiological subproject works on developing an epidemiological tool to assess stress culturally sensitively and to analyse associations of work stress with health outcomes in Bangladesh and China (Adrian Loerbroks, Maria Steinisch).



* Picture Kristin Herrmann 'Burn out', Visualising Stress Effects

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