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Coping with stress and by stress: Russian men and women talking about transition, stress and health

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  • Pietilä, Ilkka
  • Rytkönen, Marja

Abstract

Several studies have claimed stress to be a major reason for poor public health in Russia and referred to significant social changes as a reason for the high level of perceived stress among Russians. This article aims to examine how stress and its relation to health are interpreted in the context of everyday life in Russian men's and women's interview talk with a focus on descriptions of recent social changes. The research material consists of 29 thematic interviews of men and women from St. Petersburg aged 15-81. In the analysis of contextual constructions of stress, we found that stress was used not only within a context of an individual's own life as an expression of a strained psycho-physiological state but also denoted larger societal processes and changes. In addition to individual experiences, the whole of Russian society was described as suffering from stress. Throughout the material, most interviewees, whilst outspokenly blaming stress for deteriorating physical health, met difficulties in making concrete these negative influences. Based on analysis, we interpret our interviewees' accounts of stress as a part of the cultural discourse wherein 'stress' serves as a conceptual tool in making interpretations about both the people and their social environment. Stress, as a concept, has emerged in a wide range of different institutional sites, such as the media and public health policy and has become a discursive entity of contemporary social life in Russia. We claim that it has simultaneously become an intermediary concept articulating a shared, cultural experience of the changes in Russian society and their effects on individuals' everyday life and health. Thus, the concept of stress helps people to articulate, make sensible, and cope with the impacts of transition on their individual lives.

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  • Pietilä, Ilkka & Rytkönen, Marja, 2008. "Coping with stress and by stress: Russian men and women talking about transition, stress and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 327-338, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:66:y:2008:i:2:p:327-338
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