Coping-Based Profile and Physical Health, Mental Health Outcomes among Patients with Systemic Sclerosis: An Empirical Approach
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a severe rheumatic disease with extensive implications for quality of life. Physically, the disease causes fatigue, chronic pain, and functional disability. Mentally, the disease is associated with body image distress, anxiety, and depression. Coping represents a mechanism by which individuals living with a chronic illness can exercise control over the situation and adapt more successfully. The primary aims of this study were to (1) identify coping-based profile groups, and (2) compare the coping-based profile groups on physical health and mental health outcomes. Participants included 94 adults with confirmed diagnoses of SSc. Data were drawn from a larger study, and were cross-sectional and archival in nature. A latent profile analysis was conducted to create profiles derived from participants’ raw scores on coping subscales including problem-focused (PF), wishful thinking (WT), seeking social support (SS), avoidance (AV), self-blame (SB), blaming others (BO), counting one’s blessings (CYB), and religiosity (RG). A three-profile solution was supported statistically and substantively. Low Copers (n = 7) were characterized by a below- average use of coping across all eight subscales. Conversely, High Copers (n = 23) exhibited an above-average use of coping across all eight subscales. Mixed Copers (n = 64) demonstrated infrequent use of BS, SS, AV, BO coping strategies and frequent use of the PF, WT, CYB, RG coping strategies. ANCOVAs were conducted to examine whether the profile groups differed in physical health, and whether the groups differed in psychological health. A significant effect was found for psychological health. Post hoc comparisons revealed significant differences in psychological distress between Low Copers and High Copers, and Mixed Copers and High Copers, with High Copers exhibiting significantly greater levels of distress when compared with the other two groups. This finding raises an interesting question about whether engaging in frequent use of a variety of coping strategies is related positively to one’s psychological health, as has been assumed, or whether it may reflect distress. It is recommended that future research on coping with SSc employs an LPA approach, but also collects data at multiple time points to explore the causal relationship of coping and health.
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