Although empirical evidence is available on the coping-health link in older age, research on this topic is needed with non-clinical samples of ethnically diverse older women. To contribute to filling such a research gap, we tested whether these women's general health and functional limitations were associated with specific coping strategies (selected for their particular relevance to health issues) and with known health-related demographics, i.e., age, ethnicity, income, and married status.
In this cross-sectional study, respondents were recruited at community facilities including stores and senior centers. The sample consisted of 180 community-dwelling women (age 52-98) screened for dementia; 64% of them reported having an ethnic minority status. The assessment battery contained the Mini-Cog, a demographics list, the Brief COPE, and the Medical Outcome Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey.
Hierarchical multiple regression analyses showed that older women who used behavioral disengagement and, to a smaller degree, self-distraction as a form of coping reported lower levels of general health. The opposite was the case for positive reframing and, to a lesser degree, substance use. Moreover, lower income was related to worse general health and (together with more advanced age) physical functioning. None of the coping strategies achieved significance in the physical functioning model.
These cross-sectional findings need corroboration by longitudinal research prior to developing related clinical interventions. Based on the initial evidence provided herein, clinicians working with this population should consider establishing the therapeutic goal of increasing the use of positive reframing while diminishing behavioral disengagement.