How coping mediates the effect of optimism on distress: a study of women with early stage breast cancer

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1993 Aug;65(2):375-90. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.65.2.375.


At diagnosis, 59 breast cancer patients reported on their overall optimism about life; 1 day presurgery, 10 days postsurgery, and at 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-ups, they reported their recent coping responses and distress levels. Optimism related inversely to distress at each point, even controlling for prior distress. Acceptance, positive reframing, and use of religion were the most common coping reactions; denial and behavioral disengagement were the least common reactions. Acceptance and the use of humor prospectively predicted lower distress; denial and disengagement predicted more distress. Path analyses suggested that several coping reactions played mediating roles in the effect of optimism on distress. Discussion centers on the role of various coping reactions in the process of adjustment, the mechanisms by which dispositional optimism versus pessimism appears to operate, third variable issues, and applied implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Morale*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*