The stress coping mechanisms of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (74 women and 27 men) were compared to those of healthy controls (17 women and 16 men) using the Stress Coping Questionnaire of Janke et al. (1). Based on the duration of illness, male and female patients were divided into three groups, those with a duration of illness of less than 5 years, those with 5-15 years and a third group with 15 or more years of illness. From a comparison of these groups with healthy controls, the following conclusions can be drawn: (1) RA patients can be characterized by a coping pattern which is determined by significantly more cognitive mechanisms, e.g. trivialization, more attempts at controlling their reactions and less self-accusation. (2) The patient groups with different disease durations do not differ in their coping patterns. The stress coping behaviour of RA patients seems to be stable and does not appear to be influenced by the duration of illness.