Contemporary discussions about stress started when the word “stress” jumped from the engineering field to psychology journals in the 1940s (Cooper & Dewe, 2004). Contemporary scientific exploration of stress began in the 1950s when Hanse Selye (1956) found predictable patterns in animal’s efforts to adapt when he exposed them to adverse stimuli like extreme temperature and radiation.
Walter Canon (1914), Han Selye (1956), and Harold Wolff separately explored how the body is a dynamic organism that responds to stimuli to maintain normal body functions and protect itself from the environment (Cooper & Dewe, 2004). Richard Lazarus (1991) would propose that attitudes, beliefs, and expectations influence how individuals perceive and are affected by stress. In the 1960s, researchers at the University of Michigan shifted the focus of stress research from physiological reactions to psychosocial factors in the workplace that affect employee stress (Cooper & Dewe, 2004; Jex, 2002). Beehr and Newman (1978) ignited interest in exploring occupational stress when they compiled a review of occupational stress literature in the 1970s. In the 1980s, Leonard Pearlin (1981) and others proposed a sociological framework for understanding how the demands of society influence the interpretation, response to, and consequences of stress.
Interest in and awareness of stress has since become fully mainstreamed in global politics, business, media, and popular culture. Each discipline and application seems to interpret and respond to stress differently, but the dominant contemporary framework tends to see stress as a killer disease.