Changes in coping behavior and the relationship to personality, health threat communication and illness perceptions from the diagnosis of diabetes: a 2-year prospective longitudinal study

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Valerie L. Lawson
Christine Bundy
John Belcher
John N. Harvey *
(*) Corresponding Author:
John N. Harvey | johnnharvey@btinternet.com

Abstract

Coping behavior is of critical importance in diabetes because of its impact upon self-care and hence eventual medical outcome. We examined how coping behavior and its relationship to personality, diabetes health threat communication (DHTC) and illness representations changes after diagnosis of diabetes. Newly diagnosed diabetic patients were assessed after diagnosis and at 6, 12 and 24 months using the DHTC, Illness Perceptions and Coping inventory questionnaires. Personality traits were assessed at baseline. Active coping, planning, positive reinterpretation and growth (PRG), seeking emotional and instrumental (social) support decreased over the 2 years from diagnosis while passive acceptance increased. Openness/intellect and conscientiousness traits were associated with active coping and seeking instrumental support. Openness/intellect also associated with planning and PRG. These relationships did not vary over time. Perceived threat and serious consequences were associated with active coping but the effect diminished over time. Illness coherence (understanding of diabetes), personal and treatment control were associated with active coping, planning and seeking instrumental support and did not change over time. The coping strategies most commonly employed by diabetic patients are adaptive. Coping behavior changes over the 2 years from diagnosis. Promoting better understanding of diabetes, perceptions of personal control and treatment effectiveness are more likely than perception of health threat to sustain adaptive problem focused coping behavior.

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