Hidden in Plain Sight? Men's Coping Patterns and Psychological Distress Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic
journal contributionposted on 05.01.2022, 00:00 authored by J D Livingston, George Youssef, Lauren FrancisLauren Francis, Christopher GreenwoodChristopher Greenwood, Craig OlssonCraig Olsson, Jacqui MacdonaldJacqui Macdonald
Individuals cope with stress using multiple strategies, yet studies of coping profiles are rare. We draw data from a longitudinal study of Australian men (n = 272; 30–37 years), assessed before (T1) and during (T2) a nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown. We aimed to: (1) identify men's multi-strategy coping profiles before and during the pandemic; (2) assess cross-sectional (T1-T1, T2-T2) and prospective (T1-T2) associations between profiles and symptoms of psychological distress (stress, anxiety, depression, and anger); and (3) examine relationships between coping profiles and appraisals of pandemic-related stressors and options for coping. In latent profile analyses of 14 coping strategies, three profiles emerged that were largely consistent across T1 and T2: (1) Relaxed Copers (low use of all strategies), (2) Approach Copers, and (3) Dual Copers (high avoidant and moderate-high approach-oriented strategies). Compared to Relaxed and Approach Copers, men who were Dual Copers had elevated psychological distress cross-sectionally before (T1) and during (T2) the pandemic, but not prospectively. Post hoc analyses suggested this was because many men changed coping profiles in the context of the pandemic. Men with stable (T1-T2) or new (T2 only) Dual Coping profiles experienced greater psychological distress and more negative appraisals of pandemic stressors and options for coping. In sum, at the sample level, the composition of men's coping profiles and associations with mental health risk were relatively stable over time and contexts; however, many men appeared to respond to pandemic conditions by changing coping profile groups, with mostly positive mental health outcomes. Of concern were men who adopted more avoidant strategies (e.g., denial, self-distraction, disengagement, substance use, and self-blame) under pandemic conditions. These Dual Coper men also engaged in commonly observable approach-oriented behaviours (e.g., planning, active coping, humour, seeking practical social support) that may mask their vulnerability to mental health risk. Our findings highlight the clinical importance of enquiring about escalating or frequent avoidant coping even in the presence of more active and interactive approach-oriented behaviours.