Details of Publication 851 for Project W074:

Harris M, Byles J, Townsend N & Loxton D. Perceptions of coping with non-disease-related life stress for women with osteoarthritis: a qualitative analysis BMJ Open, 2016; 6: e010630

Objective Coping with arthritis-related stress has been extensively studied. However, limited evidence exists regarding coping with stress extraneous to the disease (life stress). This study explored life stress and coping in a subset of older women with osteoarthritis from a larger longitudinal study.Setting An Australian regional university.Design: This qualitative study involved semistructured telephone interviews. Potential participants were mailed a letter of invitation/participant information statement by the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH). Invitations were sent out in small batches (primarily 10). Interviews were conducted until data saturation was achieved using a systematic process (n=19). Digitally recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and deidentified. Data were thematically analysed.Participants: Women who indicated being diagnosed or treated for arthritis in the previous 3 years in the fifth survey of the ALSWH (conducted in 2007) provided the sampling frame. Potential participants were randomly sampled by a blinded data manager using a random number generator.Results: Coping with life stress involved both attitudinal coping processes developed early in life (ie, stoicism) and transient cognitive and support-based responses. Women also described a dualistic process involving a reduction in the ability to cope with ongoing stress over time, coupled with personal growth.Conclusions: This is the first study to examine how individuals cope with non-arthritis-related stress. The findings add to the current understanding of stress and coping, and have implications regarding the prevention of arthritis in women. Importantly, this study highlighted the potential detrimental impact of persistent coping patterns developed early in life. Public health campaigns aimed at stress mitigation and facilitation of adaptive coping mechanisms in childhood and adolescence may assist with arthritis prevention.