Global Peace Initiative

Societal stress fuels crime and social violence

Our modern lifestyles have given rise to what the U.S. Surgeon General calls “an epidemic of stress”, characterized by disease, stroke, and other stress-related illnesses.

According to research, pervasive stress on a societal scale also correlates with higher crime, including homicide, aggravated assault, rape, and robbery1—and contributes to the outbreak of war, terrorism, and other social violence.2

According to prevailing theories in the field of conflict management,3 the first stage in the emergence of war is mounting stress—political, ethnic, and religious tensions. Such social stress, if unchecked, erupts as violent conflict or war. When such societal tensions run deep, history confirms that diplomatic efforts, negotiated settlements, and ceasefires produce fleeting results and provide no stable basis for lasting peace.

“The basis of terrorism and any conflict can be understood in this way: whatever may seem to be the cause, whatever excuses there are, these excuses arise on the surface of the human race only, but the underlying cause is a build up of stress in the life of the people – stress in world consciousness – and stress is not seen until it bursts out into violence and war. Only by relieving the individual and society of this build up of stress can we ever hope to prevent war.” – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi



  1. Social Indicators Research, 47, 153–201, 1999.
  2. Journal of Conflict Resolution 32(4), 776–812, 1988.
  3. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 17(1), 285–338, 2005.