Profiles of leaders in stress research: Prof Cary L Cooper CBE


The latest in Salimetrics series of profiles of international leaders in the field of stress research features Cary L Cooper CBE, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health.

Each month an expert from the Salimetrics research community is featured, with the aim of bringing together university researchers around the world to encourage the sharing of ideas.  It is possible for you to communicate directly with the "Expert" featured.


Biography:  Prof Cary Cooper CBE

Cary L. Cooper is Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University Management School. He is the author/editor of over 120 books (on occupational stress, women at work and industrial and organizational psychology), has written over 400 scholarly articles for academic journals, and is a frequent contributor to national newspapers, TV and radio. 

He is currently Founding Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behaviour and Editor-in-Chief of the medical journal Stress & Health.  He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, The Royal Society of Arts, The Royal Society of Medicine, The Royal Society of Public Health, The British Academy of Management and an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences.  Professor Cooper is  past President of the British Academy of Management, is a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute and one of the first UK based Fellows of the (American) Academy of Management (having also won the 1998 Distinguished Service Award for his contribution to management science from the Academy of Management).  

In 2001, Cary was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his contribution to occupational safety and health.  He holds Honorary Doctorates from Aston University (DSc), Heriot-Watt University (DLitt), Middlesex University (Doc. Univ), Sheffield University (DSc) and Wolverhampton University (DBA); an Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine in 2005, was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians (Hon FRCP) in 2006, in 2007 a Life Time Achievement Award from the Division of Occupational Psychology of the British Psychological Society, in 2008 an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (College of Occupational Medicine), in 2010 awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology, an Honorary Fellowship of the British Psychological Society.  

Professor Cooper is Chair of the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences (an umbrella body of 44 learned societies in the social sciences, comprising over 87,000 social scientists) (2009-), as well as past Chair of the Chronic Disease and Wellbeing Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum in Geneva (2009-2010). In November 2010, he was awarded the Lord Dearing Lifetime Achievement Award by the Times Higher Education for his distinguished contribution to higher education.
Professor Cooper is the Editor-in-Chief of the international scholarly Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Management (13 Volume set), the Editor of Who’s Who in the Management Sciences and on the Editorial Boards of many scholarly journals.  He has been an adviser to two UN agencies; the World Health Organisation and the ILO; published a major report for the EU’s European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Work Conditions on `Stress Prevention in the Workplace’, produced a scientific review for the WHO/ILO on workplace violence in the health sector internationally, and was a special adviser to the Defense Committee of the House of Commons on their Duty of Care enquiry (2004-05).

Professor Cooper is former Chair of The Sunningdale Institute (a think tank on management/organizational issues) in the National School of Government (2004-2009).  He was also the lead scientist to the UK Government Office for Science on their Foresight programme on Mental Capital and Well Being (2007-2009), and was appointed a member of the expert group on establishing guidance for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence on ‘promoting mental wellbeing through productive and healthy working conditions’, 2009.
Professor Cooper is also the President of the Institute of Welfare, President of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, President of  RELATE, a national Ambassador of The Samaritans,  and a Patron of the Anxiety UK.
Recent Books:

Wellbeing: Productivity and Happiness at Work. Published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2011
Employee Morale. Published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2010
How to Deal with Stress, 2010 published by Kogan Page
Advances in Mergers and Acquisitions, published by Emerald Publ, 2011

Interview with Cary at the STAR Conference in Majorca:

1. Can you tell us about the major themes in your research programmes?
I have a range of research projects on: from studies of stress in particular occupations eg police, divers, etc; to evaluating wellbeing interventions in the workplace; to developing policies for the improvement of workforce health in both public and private sector bodies; to studies on why men don't apply for flexible working arrangements to the impact of these on their health, job satisfaction and performance; to 20 nation studies on work-life balance; to studies on presenteeism between Taiwan and UK or within the UK...

2. If you had to pick one publication in the past five years as the "best of your best", what would it be and why?
 It would be the Government of Office of Science Foresight project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing, which was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2009.  I was lead scientist on the project where we collected science reviews from over 90 international scholars and then decided policy to enhance wellbeing along the life course from birth to death...was headed by the Secretary of State in DIUS now part of the Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills.

3. How did you get interested in Occupational Stress Research?
I got involved in occupational stress research by accident being involved in a large scale study of why managers don't move jobs for promotion in a major multinational company.  As we were interviewing people we found that they talked a great deal about the stress in their lives and at work, so we changed the focus of the study and were the first people to assess managerial stress in the UK.

4. How are Companies coping with Stress in the Workplace, How many workers are affected?
Stress costs the UK economy, estimated by leading economists, in the order of £25.9b per annum in terms of sickness absence, presenteeism and labour turnover...and much more in terms of lower productivity but difficult to calculate the costs  Many companies are involved in workplace counselling and stress management training but fewer in doing stress and wellbeing audits. I have developed the most used psychometric tool ASSET on which we have data for tens of thousands of UK workers in all sectors.

5. Are there any positives to Stress in Life?
Pressure is positive and stimulating but when pressure exceeds your ability to cope than you are in the stress arena and that is negative. Stress behaviours can lead to poor physical and mental health, as well as poor health behaviours eg smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, social withdrawal, aggressive behaviour, etc.

6. Do you feel the use of Salivary Analytes could be added as a quantitative measurement to help identify those affected by Stress, e.g.Cortisol?
Psychophysiological measures are an important indicator of risk factors to stress and should be used in research in occupational stress if funds permit.

7.  I know you've suggested a three pronged strategy for stress management - to reduce the causes of stress, manage the symptoms of stress and provide 'rehab' support for those suffering from it. What can we do to reduce the causes of stress?
UNLESS organizations identify the sources of stress in a workplace, they can do very little about causes of organizational stress like a bullying boss, a long hours culture, poor management, lack of clarity about roles, poor work-life balance, etc. For individuals they can do various things, and these can be found in my book Palmer & Cooper How to Deal with Stress by Kogan Page, London...third edition published next month 2012.

8. What advice would give young investigators who want to become "Stress" Researchers?
My advice is that we need more research into what interventions work, so doing studies assessing a variety of stress management interventions is where the field needs to go.

9. Tell us something about you (a hobby or special interest) that we would be surprised to know?
 I am a strong and committed supporter of Manchester City Football Club, attending all home matches with my daughters...Also I was born in Hollywood, California, which explains my mother was a real fan of Cary Grant!

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