Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

The Associations of Humorous Coping Styles, Affective States, Job Demands and Job Control with the Frequency of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

The Associations of Humorous Coping Styles, Affective States, Job Demands and Job Control with the Frequency of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

Article excerpt

Introduction

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) like the common cold and influenza are not only associated with procedures aimed at an increase of bodily hygiene - several studies have shown that psychological processes may also influence the risk to catch these common types of infection. However, these studies have not looked closely at job resources like job control and humorous coping styles and at affective states as predictors of URTI frequency, let alone that these variables have been incorporated into one model. Furthermore, previous studies have investigated generic humorous coping styles and have not looked at specific styles like antecedent-focused and response-focused humorous coping, which may theoretically differ in their effect on health, including URTI frequency.

The present study intends to fill these gaps, aiming to increase our understanding of the role of these occupational variables in their association with URTI frequency. A model incorporating job demands, job control, several styles of humorous coping and job-related affect as predictors of URTI frequency is tested, enabling investigation of the contribution of the separate variables as well as their interactions. The focus is on a test of the predictive value of generic and specific humorous coping styles for URTI frequency.

Psychosocial variables, affective states and upper respiratory tract infections frequency

The frequency of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) may be predicted by general and jobrelated psychosocial variables. General demands increase the frequency of the common cold (Cohen, Tyrell, & Smith, 1991, 1993). A similar relationship has been found for job-related demands (Hao, Duan & Zhang, 2002; Mohren, Swaen, Borm, Bast, & Galama, 2001). The adverse effects of these demands on URTI frequency may be due to their negative affective consequences. Several studies have indeed shown that negative affect is positively related to URTI frequency (e.g. Biondi & Zannino, 1997; Cohen & Williamson, 1991). Recently, Takkouche, Regueira and Gestal-Ottero (2001) have reported support for a negative association between positive affect and URTI frequency. However, job resources like job control and humorous coping styles may also play a significant role in adaptation to stress (Hobfoll, 2002) and should therefore be added to our model.

Job control, humorous coping and affective states

Job control has been proposed as an important job resource which acts as a buffer for job demands in Karasek's (1979) job demand-control model, which was later extended to the job demands-resources model (Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, & Schaufeli, 2001). Job control is a key variable in this model, because it enables employees to decide how and when they do certain tasks. In some job types high job demands may be buffered by high job control (Karasek calls this an active job type). Another job resource may be humorous coping, which is an interesting coping style because - unlike many other coping styles - it is not only aimed at preventing or decreasing negative affective consequences resulting from stress, but also adding mirth to the coping equation (Doosje, De Goede, Van Doornen, & Goldstein, 2010). Several empirical studies have confirmed that generic humorous coping may serve this dual-purpose function because of its relationships with decreases in negative affect (e.g. Eggli, 1997; Olson, Hugelshofer, Kwon, & Reff, 2005) and increases in positive affect (e.g. Anderson & Arnoult, 1989; Martin, Puhlik-Doris, Larsen, Gray, & Weir, 2003). This is consistent with relief theory, stating that humour relieves tension in the individual (Cooper, 2008).

As the present study is dedicated to the associations of humorous coping with health dimensions, it should be mentioned that the traditional view of humorous coping as a generic concept has been challenged lately. Instead, responsefocused and antecedent-focused forms of humorous coping have been proposed, with possibly differential health effects. …

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