The subjects belong to a prospective, longitudinal population study on mental health, the Lundby study, performed in 1947, 1957 and 1972. In 1988-1989, 148 individuals, then 42-56 years of age, raised in families with at least 3 risk factors for mental or behavioral disorders, were interviewed about their life span coping style. Twenty-two coping mechanisms were rated; optimism, substitution, wishful thinking, problem-solving, planning, self-reliance, humor, acceptance, resignation, social support, comparison with others, religion, catharsis, self-criticism, value reinforcement, alcohol and drug consumption, professional help, endurance, information-seeking, isolating activity, magic and minimizing. Together they contributed statistically significantly to mental health (explained variance 24%) and quality of life (explained variance 28%). Problem-solving, social support and optimism were frequently used and were statistically associated with positive mental health and lower frequencies of some mental disorders. Sense of coherence, a personal disposition factor, was also statistically associated (explained variance 22%) with the combined coping mechanisms.