Is life in the United States becoming more stressful? Are levels of stress related to residence in a particular state or region? Is stress in a society associated with aggression?
In this important book the authors report on a major research project that establishes a link between stress and aggression in the United States. They first update the standard State Stress Index, which evaluates statistics on business failure, unemployment, divorce, abortion, illegitimate birth, disaster assistance, welfare, and school dropout rate for the fifty states. Using these current indexes, they are able to compare differences among states in the stressfulness of life. They then present new data on violence—both violence directed at others (homicide, intrafamily assault, and rape) and self-destructive violence (suicide and substance abuse). The authors make a compelling case that stress leads to widespread and often lethal aggression. In addition, they consider cultural norms of various groups within states relating to drinking, the use of violence for socially legitimate purposes, the status of women, and readership of pornography, in an effort to explain geographic differences in the manifestations of violence. Linsky, Bachman, and Straus conclude by outlining the policy implications of their findings.