The Spreading of Stress

Press Release No. 124/2012
15 May 2012
International Conference by the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”
Verwirrt By Kristin Herrmann
Kristin Herrmann: Verwirrt

The term ‘stress’ emerged about 70 years ago as a medico-social concept that was developed in the West and then rapidly spread. Heidelberg University’s Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” will take a closer look at whether and why more and more people in other cultures, especially in the Asian countries, are being “stressed” in a conference entitled “The Culture of Stress” on May 22 – 23, 2012 at the Karl Jaspers Centre. International researchers in the fields of epidemiology, anthropology, and history will discuss the evolution of stress in socio-cultural contexts.

“The term ‘stress’ and its associated burden represent a key issue in modern life. There is good reason to assume that globalisation and economic interconnectedness caused this phenomenon to spread, especially into Asia”, explains social anthropologist Dr. Christian Strümpell, one of the conference’s organisers. “We want to discuss the epidemiological spread of stress and approaches to handling stress in different cultures during our conference.” The garment factories in Bangladesh where many Western companies order their products will be one of the featured topics. Hasan Ashraf, a doctoral candidate at Heidelberg University, will discuss the situation of the workers and the relationship between economics and stress. During his field research, he spent several months working in two factories in Bangladesh, living together with the workers.

In his keynote lecture entitled “Inequality: The enemy between us?” Prof. Dr. Richard Wilkinson from the University of Nottingham (Great Britain) will address the relationship between social inequality and health. Other topics to be covered during the conference include the trauma of war and possible signs of the growing resilience of those exposed to stress. The event will also be accompanied by an exhibition by artist Kristin Herrmann, whose works visualise the effects of stress on the human body and mind.

The workshop is the culminating event of the “Stress and Stress Relief” research project from the “Asia and Europe” Cluster of Excellence. For three years, six researchers have studied the concept of stress and its associated “modern lifestyle”. “We were able to trace back the historical origins of ‘stress’ in the West and describe the manifestations of ‘stress’ in Asian countries like Bangladesh. We also observed how the notion of stress spread from the West into Asian countries while at the same time methods for relieving stress, such as Buddhist meditation, from Asia gain popularity in the West”, says epidemiologist Dr. Adrian Loerbroks.

For more information on the workshop and the research project, go to

Dr. Alexander Häntzschel, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”
Phone: +49 6221 54-4008,

Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone: +49 6221 54-2311

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