Jill Kirby
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The democratisation of stress
Popular and personal discourse in the 1960s and 1970s
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This chapter positions the 1970s as a transition period before stress became normalised in British society. Focusing on the 1960s and 1970s it argues that the public, popular discourse of stress increasingly revealed in newspaper reporting, shifted from perceiving workplace stress as a problem of the managerial class to applying the label of stress to almost anyone at any life stage in any circumstances. However, examination of three case studies of individual accounts of work stress in the early 1970s argues for the relatively limited impact of this public discourse on individual understanding and interpretation of symptoms of stress, among sufferers, colleagues and families alike. It argues that such accounts persisted in privileging physical symptoms and that attitudes towards the stressed continued to focus on the individual’s weakness rather than the contribution of their environmental or social context.

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Feeling the strain

A cultural history of stress in twentieth-century Britain


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