Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Positive Coping Style as a Mediator between Older Adults' Self-Esteem and Loneliness

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Positive Coping Style as a Mediator between Older Adults' Self-Esteem and Loneliness

Article excerpt

The steady growth of the section of the population in China that is in the older adult age group makes concerns about their physical and mental health particularly urgent. Loneliness is a negative emotional experience that may appear when one's needs for close relationships and interpersonal communication cannot be met, and is an important indicator of mental health. Loneliness is one of the three major problems experienced by the aged population in China (L. Liu, Xu, & Song, 2006), seriously affecting the mental health and quality of life of those who suffer from loneliness. Therefore, exploring the factors that influence older adults' loneliness is important for improving their physical and mental health.

Loneliness could be impacted by many factors, an important one of which is self-esteem. In this study, we defined self-esteem as relating to confidence, adjustment, and a belief in oneself. It represents the general emotional evaluation of one's own value. In mental dissonance theory, it is suggested that higher self-esteem leads to less loneliness (Van Baarsen, 2002). This proposition has been confirmed by previous researchers, including empirical results showing that a high susceptibility to loneliness in early adulthood is attributable to low self-esteem (Mahon, Yarcheski, Yarcheski, Cannella, & Hanks, 2006; Man & Hamid, 1998; Mcwhirter, Besett-Alesch, Horibata, & Gat, 2002; H. Zhang & Chen, 2012). Researchers who have studied older adults have also shown that high self-esteem is significantly and negatively correlated with loneliness, and that older people with higher self-esteem tend to experience less loneliness than do their peers (Tian, 2014). These findings suggest that self-esteem is an important influencing factor in loneliness, possibly because people with low self-esteem may perceive themselves as social failures or blame themselves for having little social contact with others, thus increasing their loneliness.

Coping style refers to the overt act an individual performs to manage external events after a cognitive process and evaluation (Ebata & Moos, 1991). In general, coping styles can be divided into positive coping and negative coping. A positive coping style involves behavioral or psychological responses designed to change the nature of the stressor itself or how one thinks about it, whereas a negative coping style leads people into activities (such as alcohol use) or mental states (such as withdrawal) that prevent them from directly addressing stressful events (Thiruchelvi & Supriya, 2012). Xie (1998) pointed out that, rather than a positive coping style necessarily having beneficial consequences, or a negative one having negative consequences, positive and negative coping styles are relative. Thus, although some coping styles are classified as negative, they may have beneficial effects on relieving stress and temporarily coping with setbacks, suggesting the difference between the two coping styles may be quantitative. Mullis and Chapman (2000) found that individuals with higher self-esteem usually adopted question-focused coping strategies aimed at solving problems, whereas those with lower self-esteem tended to adopt emotion-focused coping strategies, including venting of emotions and avoiding problems. This indicates that self-esteem is related to coping style, a finding supported by other scholars (He & Fan, 2014; L. Li, 2014).

In addition, some researchers have shown that coping styles are related to loneliness. For example, X. Zhang and Wang (2011) found that people who were less lonely usually adopted positive coping styles, whereas people who were more lonely tended to adopt negative coping styles. In a meta-analysis of the relationship between coping styles and mental health of Chinese people, Guo and Wang (2013) also showed that positive coping styles were negatively correlated with mental illness symptoms, negative coping styles were positively correlated with mental illness symptoms, and loneliness was often regarded as a symptom of mental illness. …

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