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Quantifying insufficient coping behavior under chronic stress. A cross-cultural study of 1,303 students from Italy, Spain, and Argentina.
The question of how to quantify insufficient coping behavior under chronic stress is of major clinical relevance. In fact, chronic stress increasingly dominates modern work conditions and can affect nearly every system of the human body, as suggested by physical, cognitive, affective and behavioral symptoms. Since freshmen students experience constantly high levels of stress due to tight schedules and frequent examinations, we carried out a 3-center study of 1,303 students from Italy, Spain and Argentina in order to develop socioculturally independent means for quantifying coping behavior. The data analysis relied on 2 self-report questionnaires: the Coping Strategies Inventory (COPE) for the assessment of coping behavior and the Zurich Health Questionnaire which assesses consumption behavior and general health dimensions. A neural network approach was used to determine the structural properties inherent in the COPE instrument. Our analyses revealed 2 highly stable, socioculturally independent scales that reflected basic coping behavior in terms of the personality traits activity-passivity and defeatism-resilience. This replicated previous results based on Swiss and US-American data. The percentage of students exhibiting insufficient coping behavior was very similar across the study sites (11.5-18.0%). Given their stability and validity, the newly developed scales enable the quantification of basic coping behavior in a cost-efficient and reliable way, thus clearing the way for the early detection of subjects with insufficient coping skills under chronic stress who may be at risk of physical or mental health problems.
chronic stress, insufficient coping skills, affective disorders, early detection, students
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