Negative affectivity and repressive coping: pervasive influence on self-reported mood, health, and coronary-prone behavior.

Abstract

Negative affectivity (NA) and repressive coping (REP) are coping styles characterized by a disposition to either experience or avoid distress. This study investigated the potential influence of NA and REP on self-reported distress and coronary-prone behavior among 178 male cardiac patients undergoing rehabilitation. Based on their STAI-Trait and Marlowe-Crowne Scale scores, subjects were categorized as high NA (N = 72), low NA (N = 44), or REP (N = 62) individuals. With respect to subjective distress, high-NA individuals reported more negative mood states and health complaints than both low-NA and REP individuals (p less than 0.0001). In contrast, no association was found between coping style and cardiovascular fitness as measured by exercise stress testing (p = 0.87). Hence, it seems that (a) high-NA individuals overreacted to physical problems and (b) REP individuals warded off distress. These differences in coping style were stable over a period of 3 months. With respect to coronary-prone behavior, the current findings were largely inconsistent with previous research. NA was associated with Type A interview-rating (p less than 0.001), but not with Type A self-rating. REP individuals, however, had a significantly lower score on the Jenkins Activity Survey and the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale than both high-NA and low-NA individuals (p less than 0.0001). Supposed associations, therefore, between NA and self-rated coronary-prone behavior may in fact originate from the repressive coping style that characterizes some individuals low in NA. In summary, it may be stated that the findings of the current study suggest the use of NA and REP markers in research, so that the potential influence of these coping styles can be identified in the study of stress-health relationships.

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