Exploring the Mediating Roles of Cognitive and Behavioural Coping Strategies on the Relationship between Age and Well-Being

Article excerpt

The aim of this study was to investigate the possible mediating role of various cognitive and behavioural coping strategies on the relationship between age and psychological (i.e., cognitive and somatic anxiety) and physiological (i.e., chronic fatigue, digestive and cardiovascular symptoms) well-being. Fourteen specific individual coping strategies (four disengagement, four engagement, and six behavioural) were assessed in this study. The four disengagement and four engagement coping styles were taken from the Coping Strategies Inventory (CSI) included in the Standard Shiftwork Index (SSI), while the six behavioural coping strategies were based on recommendations published within the shiftwork literature (e.g., exercising, altering family or social life commitments to fit in with working shifts, advising friends and family about shift patterns, etc). Three open-ended questions were also included in the questionnaire allowing shiftworkers to provide further contextual detail about the specific coping strategies utilised. One hundred and eight Police Officers with at least 12 months shiftworking experience completed a modified version of the SSI and an active coping questionnaire. A series of exploratory stepwise regressions provided evidence that shiftworkers utilise a constellation of different coping strategies, and that each of these coping strategies may mediate specific aspects of the relationship between age and psychological and/or physiological well-being. Comments from shiftworkers provided further evidence for the variety of coping strategies utilised to help adapt to shiftwork.

While there are many factors such as personality, workload demands, and shift systems that impinge on an individual's ability to cope with shiftwork, this study will explore the possible mediating role of various coping strategies on the relationship between age and individual psychological and physiological well-being. The following exploratory study is based on a sub-sample of shiftworkers previously reported (Knowles & Bull, 2003). Knowles and Bull (2003) found that there was a significant adverse relationship between age and psychological and physiological well-being. Furthermore, while disengagement coping (e.g., I spend more time alone) was found to have an adverse relationship with psychological and physiological well-being symptoms, engagement coping (e.g., I work on solving the problems in the situation) did not correlate significantly with any of the psychological and physiological well-being symptoms. Previous research has also provided mixed findings relating to the role of coping and its impact on well-being. A brief review of research relating to coping styles as assessed in the Standard Shiftwork Index (SSI) and well-being follows.

The current method to assess individual coping in the Standard Shiftwork Index (SSI) is the coping questionnaire based on a combination of Tobin and colleagues Coping Strategies Inventory (CSI) and the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WCQ) by Folkman and Lazarus (Barton, Folkard, Smith, Spelten, & Totterdell, 1992). The coping questionnaire assesses the impact of two cognitively based coping strategies (engagement and disengagement coping) with regard to four problem areas (social life, domestic life, sleep and job). Engagement coping assesses the extent to which individuals utilise four specific positive cognitive processes in dealing with problems: talking to someone about problems; letting emotions out; working on solving problems; and, reorganizing problems so that they do not seem so bad. In contrast, disengagement coping assesses the extent to which subjects utilize four specific negative cognitive processes in dealing with problems: spending more time alone; wishing the problem away; avoiding doing or thinking about problems; and, criticizing themselves.

Shiftworker-based studies have provided mixed support with regard to the beneficial or aversive role of both engagement and disengagement coping styles on individual psychological and physiological well-being. …