Stress, domination and basic income: considering a citizens’ entitlement response to a public health crisis

  • Matthew Thomas Johnson
  • Elliott Johnson
Original Article


In 2015/16, stress was found psychologically to be responsible for 37% of all work-related illnesses and 45% of all working days lost due to illness in Great Britain. Stress has also been linked to long-term chronic health conditions—including heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and depression—responsible for 70% of NHS England spend, 50% of GP appointments, 64% of outpatient appointments and 70% of inpatient bed days. It is apparent that medical responses to stress-related illness contribute to the NHS funding crisis without resolving underlying causes. It is necessary to address the social bases of this public health issue. We argue that one of the primary causes of stress stems from a basic assumption of modern economics: that hierarchies are essential to organizational success. We argue that the combination of hierarchy and possibility of destitution inflicts domination on individuals. We then consider the potential contribution of universal basic income (UBI) to dealing causally with this public health problem. This marks a new development in both the public health and UBI literature studies. We conclude that future trials and studies of UBI ought to measure physiological effects on stress as part of a holistic evaluation of the policy.


Stress Domination Universal basic income Public health 


  1. Adams, J., E. Stamp, D. Nettle, E.M.G. Milne, and C. Jagger. 2015. Anticipated survival and health behaviours in older english adults: Cross sectional and longitudinal analysis of the english longitudinal study of ageing. PLoS ONE, 10(3), e0118782.
  2. Arnesen, A.-L., and L. Lindahl. 2006. Still social and democratic? Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 50: 285–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arney, K. 2017. How your blood may predict your future health. Guardian, 10 October. (Accessed 10 October 2017).
  4. Atkinson, A.B. 1995. Public economics in action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bamfield, L., and T. Horton. 2009. Understanding attitudes to tackling income inequality. York: JRF.Google Scholar
  6. Birnbaum, S., and J. De Wispelaere. 2016. Basic income in the capitalist economy. Basic Income Studies 11 (1): 61–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cannon, W. 1932. Wisdom of the body. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  8. Carrasco, G.A., and L.D. van de Kar. 2003. Neuroendocrine pharmacology of stress. European Journal of Pharmacology 463 (1): 235–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chida, Y., and A. Steptoe. 2009. Cortisol awakening response and psychosocial factors. Biological Psychology 80 (3): 265–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chrousos, G.P., and P.W. Gold. 1992. The concepts of stress and stress system disorders. JAMA 267 (9): 1244–1252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cohen, S., P.J. Gianaros, and S.B. Manuck. 2016. A stage model of stress and disease. Perspectives on Psychological Science 11 (4): 456–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohen, S., D. Janicki-Deverts, W.J. Doyle, G.E. Miller, E. Frank, B.S. Rabin, and R.B. Turner. 2012. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (16): 5995–5999.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cooper, C.L., and J.C. Quick. 2017. Introduction. In The handbook of stress and health, ed. C.L. Cooper and J.C. Quick, 210–222. London: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Currie, A.R., and T. Symington. 1955. The pathology of the pituitary and adrenal glands in systemic disease in man. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 48 (11): 908–909.Google Scholar
  15. Davillas, A., M. Benzeval, and M. Kumari. 2017. Socio-economic inequalities in C-reactive protein and fibrinogen across the adult age span. Scientific Reports 7: 2641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Department for Work and Pensions. 2016. Guidance: Jobseeker’s allowance sanctions. Department for Work and Pensions Website, 9 December. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  17. Department of Health. 2012. Long term conditions compendium of information. London: Department of Health. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  18. Dhabhar, F.S. 2009. Enhancing versus suppressive effects of stress on immune function. NeuroImmunoModulation 16 (5): 300–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Edwards, S., F. Hucklebridge, A. Clow, and P. Evans. 2003. Components of the diurnal cortisol cycle in relation to upper respiratory symptoms and perceived stress. Psychosomatic Medicine 65 (2): 320–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Everly, G.S., and J.M. Lating. 2013. The anatomy and physiology of the human stress response. In A clinical guide to the treatment of the human stress response, ed. G.S. Everly and J.M. Lating, 17–51. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fagerholm, V., M. Haaparanta, and M. Scheinin. 2011. α2-Adrenoceptor regulation of blood glucose homeostasis. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology 108 (6): 365–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Farley, M. 2016. How a basic income would reduce taxation. The Medium, 6 November. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  23. Farrell, J. 2017. Scotland is considering giving each citizen a universal basic income. The Independent. (Accessed 10 September 2017).
  24. Fast, N.J., N. Halevy, and A.D. Galinsky. 2012. The destructive nature of power without status. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48: 391–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ferry, J.-M. 1995. L’Allocation universelle. Pour un revenu de citoyenneté. Paris: Cerf.Google Scholar
  26. Forget, E.L. 2011. The town with no poverty. Canadian Public Policy 37 (3): 283–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frankenhuis, W.E., K. Panchanathan, and D. Nettle. 2016. Cognition in harsh and unpredictable environments. Current Opinion in Psychology 7: 76–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Galinsky, E., S.S. Kim, J.T. Bond, L. Backon, E. Brownfield, and K. Sakai. 2004. Over work in America. New York: Families and Work Institute.Google Scholar
  29. Giles, T.D. 2006. Circadian rhythm of blood pressure and the relation to cardiovascular events. Journal of Hypertension 24: S11–S16. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  30. Gordon, R.J. 1996. Comment on Akerlof, Dickens and Perry. Brookings Paper on Economic Activity 1: 60–66.Google Scholar
  31. Gordon, N. 2014. The conservative case for a guaranteed basic income. The Atlantic, 6 August. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  32. 2017. Make a claim to an employment tribunal. Gov.UK. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  33. Hales, C. 2001. Managing through organization. London: Thomson.Google Scholar
  34. Harding, R. 2017. British social attitudes 34. London: National Centre for Social Research.Google Scholar
  35. Hartzell, M.M., C.D. Dodd, and R.J. Gatchel. 2017. Stress and musculoskeletal injury. In The handbook of stress and health, ed. C.L. Cooper and J.C. Quick, 210–222. London: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Health and Safety Executive. 2016. Work related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in Great Britain 2016. London: Health and Safety Executive. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  37. Health and Safety Executive. 2017. Causes of stress. Health and Safety Executive. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  38. Henderson, B.N., and A. Baum. 2004. Biological mechanisms of health and disease. In The Sage handbook of health psychology, ed. S. Sutton, A. Baum, and M. Johnston, 69–93. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  39. Herr, P. 2009. Primal management. New York: AMACOM.Google Scholar
  40. Hirsch, A. 2017. On tribunal fees, the government has been given a lesson in patriotism. The Guardian [Online], 27 July. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  41. Howard, M. 2005. Basic income, liberal neutrality, socialism, and work. Review of Social Economy 63 (4): 613–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Independent Staff. 2017. Finland’s universal basic income trial for unemployed reduces stress levels, says official. The Independent, 8 May. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  43. Kastelle, T. 2016. Hierarchy is overrated. Harvard Business Review, 20 November. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  44. Knight, E.L., and P.H. Mehta. 2017. Hierarchy stability moderates the effect of status on stress and performance in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114 (1): 78–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kunz-Ebrecht, S.R., C. Kirschbaum, M. Marmot, and A. Steptoe. 2004. Differences in cortisol awakening response on work days and weekends in women and men from the Whitehall II cohort. Psychoneuroendocrinology 29 (4): 516–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lewis, M.A., S. Pressman, and K. Widerquist. 2005. An introduction to the basic income guarantee. In The ethics and economics of the basic income guarantee, ed. K. Widerquist, M.A. Lewis, and S. Pressman, 1–10. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  47. Liu, B., S. Floud, K. Pirie, J. Green, R. Peto, V. Beral, and Million Women Study Collaborators. 2016. Does happiness itself directly affect mortality? Lancet 387: 874–881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Luchinskaya, D., P. Simpson, and G. Stoye. 2017. UK health and social care spending. In The IFS Green Budget 2017, ed. C. Emmerson, P. Johnson, and R. Joyce, 141–176. London: The Institute for Fiscal Studies. Scholar
  49. Mani, A., S. Mullainathan, E. Shafir, and J. Zhao. 2013. Poverty impedes cognitive function. Science 341 (6149): 976–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Marmot, M.G. 2004a. Status syndrome. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  51. Marmot, M.G. 2004b. Status syndrome. Significance 1 (4): 150–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Marmot, M.G. 2006. Status syndrome: A challenge to medicine. JAMA 295 (11): 1304–1307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Marmot, M.G., G. Rose, M. Shipley, and P.J. Hamilton. 1978. Employment grade and coronary heart disease in British civil servants. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 32 (4): 244–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Marmot, M.G., M.J. Shipley, and G. Rose. 1984. Inequalities in death. The Lancet 323 (8384): 1003–1006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Marmot, M.G., and A. Steptoe. 2008. Whitehall II and ELSA. In Biosocial surveys, ed. National Research Council, 42–59. Washington: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  56. Marques, A.H., M.N. Silverman, and E.M. Sternberg. 2009. Glucocorticoid dysregulations and their clinical correlates. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1179 (1): 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Marsh, S., and J. Elgot. 2017. Ministers vow to end employment tribunal fees after court defeat. Guardian [Online], 26 July. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  58. Martinelli, L. 2017. The fiscal and distributional implications of alternative universal basic income schemes in the UK, IPR Working Paper. Bath: Institute for Policy Research.Google Scholar
  59. Marx, K., and F. Engels. 1967. The communist Manifesto. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  60. Maslow, A.H. 1970. Motivation and personality. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  61. McEwen, B.S. 1998. Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. New England Journal of Medicine 338 (3): 171–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Miller, G.E., S. Cohen, and A.K. Ritchey. 2002. Chronic psychological stress and the regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Health Psychology 21 (6): 531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Miller, G.E., A. Gaudin, E. Zysk, and E. Chen. 2009. Parental support and cytokine activity in childhood asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 123 (4): 824–830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Mind. 2013. Work is biggest cause of stress in people’s lives. Mind [Online]. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  65. Mullainathan, S., and E. Shafir. 2014. Scarcity [Kindle]. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  66. Nettle, D. and M. Bateson. 2017. Childhood and adult socioeconomic position interact to predict health in mid life in a cohort of British women. PeerJ, 5: e3528.Google Scholar
  67. OECD. 2017. Basic income as a policy option, policy brief on the future of work. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  68. Office for National Statistics. 2016a. Persistent poverty in the UK and EU: 2014. London: Office for National Statistics. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  69. Office for National Statistics. 2016b. Estimate of the number of days of sickness absence taken. London: Office for National Statistics. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  70. Office for National Statistics. 2016c. How is the welfare budget spent? (Accessed 30 September 2017).
  71. Office for National Statistics. 2017. Labour Force Survey (LSF). London: Office for National Statistics. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  72. Páal, T., T. Carpenter, and D. Nettle. 2015. Childhood socioeconomic deprivation, but not current mood, is associated with behavioural disinhibition in adults. PeerJ 3: e964. Scholar
  73. Pelzer, H. 1999. Finanzierung eines allgemeinen Basiseinkommens. Ansätze zu einer kombinierten Sozial- und Steuerreform. Aachen: Shaker Verlag.Google Scholar
  74. Pepper, G.V., and D. Nettle. 2014. Socioeconomic disparities in health behaviour. In Applied evolutionary anthropology: Darwinian approaches to contemporary world issues, ed. D.W. Lawson and M. Gibson, 225–243. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Pettit, P. 1993. Negative liberty, liberal and republican. European Journal of Philosophy 1 (1): 15–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Pettit, P. 1999. Republican freedom and contestatory democratization. In Democracy’s value, ed. I. Shapiro and C. Hacker-Cordon, 163–190. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Pettit, P. 2006. The republican ideal of freedom. In The liberty reader, ed. D. Miller, 223–243. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Pettit, P. 2007. A republican right to basic income? Basic Income Studies 2 (2): 1–8.Google Scholar
  79. Pruessner, M., D.H. Hellhammer, J.C. Pruessner, and S.J. Lupien. 2003. Self-reported depressive symptoms and stress levels in healthy young men. Psychosomatic Medicine 65 (1): 92–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Psychologists for Social Change. 2017. Universal basic income. London: PAA.Google Scholar
  81. Public Health Agency of Canada. 2016. Key element 4: Increase upstream investments. Canadian Best Practices Portal [Online], 7 July. (Accessed 31 July 2017).
  82. Rajan, R.G., and L. Zingales. 2001. The firm as a dedicated hierarchy. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 116 (3): 805–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Robertson, J. 1999. The new economics of sustainable development. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar
  84. Schneiderman, N., G. Ironson, and S.D. Siegel. 2005. Stress and health. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 1: 607–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Sheahan, A. 2012. Basic income guarantee: Your right to economic security. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  86. Smith, S.M., and W.W. Vale. 2006. The role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in neuroendocrine responses to stress. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience 8 (4): 383–395.Google Scholar
  87. Standing, G. 2011. The precariat. London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
  88. Standing, G. 2017. Basic income: And how we can make it happen. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  89. Steptoe, A., P.J. Feldman, S. Kunz, N. Owen, G. Willemsen, and M. Marmot. 2002. Stress responsivity and socioeconomic status. European Heart Journal 23 (22): 1757–1763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Steptoe, A., S. Kunz-Ebrecht, N. Owen, P.J. Feldman, G. Willemsen, C. Kirschbaum, and M. Marmot. 2003. Socioeconomic status and stress-related biological responses over the working day. Psychosomatic Medicine 65 (3): 461–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Straubhaar, T. 2017. On the economics of a universal basic income. Intereconomics: Review of European Economic Policy 52 (2): 74–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Syverson, C. 2011. What determines productivity? Journal of Economic Literature 49 (2): 326–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Tang, K.L., R. Rashid, J. Godley, and W.A. Ghali. 2016. Association between subjective social status and cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular risk factors. British Medical Journal Open 6 (3): e010137.Google Scholar
  94. Taylor, R.S. 2017. Exit left. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Thoits, P.A. 2010. Stress and health major findings and policy implications. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51 (1 suppl): S41–S53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. van der Kolk, B. 2014. The Body Keeps the Score. New York: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  97. van Elteren, M. 2017. Managerial control of American workers: Methods and technology from the 1880s to today. Jefferson: McFarland & Company.Google Scholar
  98. van Rossum, C.T., M.J. Shipley, H. van de Mheen, D.E. Grobbee, and M.G. Marmot. 2000. Employment grade differences in cause specific mortality. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 54 (3): 178–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Vodanovich, S.J., and C. Piotrowski. 2014. Workplace retaliation. The Psychologist-Manager Journal 17 (2): 71–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Widerquist, K. 2013. Independence, propertylessness, and basic income. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Worrall, L., and C.L. Cooper. 1995. Executive stress in different industrial sectors, structures and sizes of business. Personnel Review 24 (7): 3–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Wright, E.O. 2006. Two redistributive proposals. Focus 24 (2): 5–7.Google Scholar
  103. Wulf, J. 2012. The flattened firm. California Management Review 55: 5–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.County South Lancaster UniversityBailriggUK

Personalised recommendations