Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 2 2007, page 11-27.
From symptoms to complex transactions
Lars Peter Andersen
Several surveys in Denmark have shown that many people report that they feel stressed daily, and an increasing number are absent from work with symptoms attributable to stress. Stress seems to be a major problem in the labour market.
This article discusses the definition of stress and argues that stress is not only due to the work characteristics or the person, but must be understood as a transaction between the work environment and the person involved. Hence it follows that stress involves a speciﬁc individual reaction.
On the basis of the literature, results from studies using different methods are presented in order to explain how the stressed person might react, feel and think. The studies show that the stressed person might experience a wide range of symptoms from those that are relatively mild to more serious symptoms, and that no existing diagnosis can account for all the symptoms being reported. Furthermore, the paper discusses whether the symptoms are only subjective experiences or whether it is possible to describe them in more objective terms. Neuropsychological studies show that cognitive stress symptoms are reﬂected in different neuropsychological tests as well as in self reported questionnaires, suggesting that the experiences of stress are not only subjective statements.
Aspects in the work environment, as well as aspects internal to the person, are discussed. The article describes how the past, the present and the future in combination with the work environment must be understood as components of the stress process. Furthermore, it is discussed how controlled and automatic information processing, and the search for meaning in work life, might result in ‘job crafting’.
The paper concludes that the causes of stress must be understood in the transactional process between the individual and the work environment and that they must be treated as part of the same system in stead of separated units.
Keywords: Stress, stress theories, meaning of work, job-crafting, information processing