Er Danmark ved at g ned med stress? En diskursanalyse af stress i risikosamfundet

Lise Nielsen, Vibeke Ørts Møgelmose, Thomas Nørgaard Olesen & Peter Frost

Studenteropgave: Masterprojekt


This thesis seeks to address the way in which stress is communicated in Danish society combined with the increasing amount of risk communication to which we are exposed. In 1986, the German sociologist Ulrich Beck launched his theory of the risk society in which he views risks as unexpected consequences of industrial society and claims that they pose one of the greatest challenges to late modernity. Since we believe that stress constitutes this kind of risk, we wish to examine communication about stress from a risk perspective. A key feature of the risk society is the struggle for the right to define risks and how to handle them. The mass media, knowledge producers and experts all play an important role in this struggle. Therefore, the objects of our analysis were 131 articles from three major Danish newspapers and a booklet from the Danish Environment Information Centre, which at the same time represents an expert and a knowledge producer. As we wanted to analyse power struggles and social change in the texts in relation to social structures, we used Norman Fairclough’s critical discourse theory. As we had a large number of media texts, we also used Roy Langer's method for mass media discourse analysis, which is based partly on Fairclough's model. This made it possible for us to identify discourses in both types of text and to compare how the texts represented stress. In the booklet, we identified a powerful medical discourse that views stress as a natural response to different causes. Furthermore, the medical discourse led to a prevention discourse that views stress as something that can be handled by eliminating or coping with its causes. We also identified the medical discourse and the prevention discourse in the articles. However, here we also found a treatment discourse that claims that stress is a kind of illness that should be handled by the health care system. We identified a powerful struggle between the prevention discourse and the treatment discourse, both of which we see as part of an order of discourse that deals with risks. In addition, we identified a working life order of discourse in both the booklet and the articles. In this order of discourse, stress is related to work, and we discovered that the so-called Danish model, in which the two parties of the labour market take care of their own issues, seems to be reproduced in this order of discourse ( 08.05.2007) Our analysis revealed similarities between the way stress is reproduced and risk theory, but it also revealed differences. We understand that some of the differences are caused by the fact that Danish society is structured differently from societies in other countries. We also take into account the fact that today’s media is produced under a different set of circumstances than those that existed when Beck developed his theory 20 years ago. Beyond this, we think that our understanding of the stress debate could be used to optimize risk communication about stress.

UddannelserMaster i Professionel Kommunikation (MPK), (Masteruddannelse) Master
Udgivelsesdato2 jun. 2007
VejledereKarsten Pedersen


  • stress
  • critical discourse analysis
  • risk society