Illness perceptions and coping in physical health conditions: A meta-analysis

J Psychosom Res. 2015 Dec;79(6):506-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.10.006. Epub 2015 Oct 21.


Objective: There is a considerable body of research linking elements of Leventhal's Common Sense Model (CSM) to emotional well-being/distress outcomes among people with physical illness. The present study aims to consolidate this literature and examine the evidence for the role of coping strategies within this literature.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted where the outcomes of interest were: depression, anxiety and quality of life. A total of 1050 articles were identified and 31 articles were considered eligible to be included in the review.

Results: Across a range of illnesses, perceptions of consequences of the illness and emotional representations were consistently the illness perceptions with the strongest relationship with the outcomes. Coping variables tend to be stronger predictors of outcomes than the illness perception variables. The evidence for the mediating effect of coping was inconsistent.

Conclusions: Illness perceptions and coping have an important role to play in the explanation of distress outcomes across a range of physical health conditions. However, some clarity about the theoretical position of coping in relation to illness perceptions, and further longitudinal work is needed if we are to apply this information to the design of interventions for the improvement of psychological health among people with physical health conditions.

Keywords: Coping; Illness perceptions; Meta-analysis; Psychological distress.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Emotions
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Quality of Life*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*