Efficacy of coping through emotional approach for a working population

Date of Completion

January 2006


Psychology, Clinical




It has often been argued that contending with one's emotions is maladaptive. However, emotional approach coping (EAC; active processing and/or expression of emotion) has been shown to benefit those dealing with stressors such as chronic pain, infertility and breast cancer. This study sought to extend this research by investigating relationship between EAC and health when emotional approach is employed as a general long-term strategy, not necessarily relative to a specific stressor. This cross-sectional investigation hypothesized that greater general use of EAC would predict better mental and physical health in a working population. It was also hypothesized that EAC subscale emotional processing (EP) would contribute more to better health than would EAC subscale emotional expression (EE). As part of a corporate wellness program, employees (162 women, 484 men,) completed the World Health Organization Health and Performance Questionnaire: Survey Version, INSIGHT + Health Risk Appraisal Survey and a general use version of the EAC Scale. Biometric indices of physical health (e.g., cholesterol indices, triglycerides, body mass index) were also measured. Stepwise regressions controlling for age revealed that EAC accounted for small amounts of variance for all nine mental health variables investigated, and two of nine physical health variables. EAC was a better predictor of health for women. EP explained more variance than did EE for both women and men. EP predicted better health for women for variables measuring sense of overall mental health, nervousness, anger/hostility, work stress, stress-management effectiveness and ratio of high-density lipids to low-density lipids. EE predicted less depressive/dysphoric tendencies for women, less family stress, more interest/challenge in life and greater degree of support from friends/family. For men, EP predicted better effectiveness in managing stress, more interest/challenge in life, more support from friends/family, and higher ratings of general overall physical health. EP predicted lessened health for men on self-reported depressive/dysphoric tendencies. EE for men predicted better sense of overall mental health and less depressive/dysphoric tendencies. Differences between EP and EE, sex differences and clinical implications are discussed. ^