New UK research has shown that women who possess a good set of coping skills find it easier to overcome anxiety.
The study, carried out by the University of Cambridge, was presented at the ECNP Conference and is the largest study ever conducted on coping and the anxiety that comes from facing adverse circumstances, such as living in deprivation.
For the research the team surveyed 10,000 women over the age of 40 who were taking part in a major cancer study in Norfolk, UK. The team used health and lifestyle questionnaires to gather information on the women’s living conditions and history of physical and mental health.
This data was then linked with 1991 census data to determine if the women were living in a deprived community.
The women’s sense of meaning and purpose in life was also measured using a questionnaire based on groundbreaking work from Aaron Antonovsky (1923-94), a prominent sociologist who believed that an individual’s personal disposition could make them more resilient to stress.
The results showed that 261 (2.6%) of the 10,000 women had Generalised Anxiety Disorder. In addition, those living in a deprived area who didn’t have coping skills were around two times (98%) more likely to have anxiety than those living in more affluent communities.
Lead researcher Olivia Remes explained, “Individuals with this sense of coherence, with good coping skills, view life as comprehensible and meaningful. In other words, they feel they can manage their life, and that they are in control of their life, they believe challenges encountered in life are worthy of investment and effort; and they believe that life has meaning and purpose. These are skills which can be taught.”
Teaching these skills could now potentially be an alternative treatment to prescription drugs, which are less effective in the long-term and can come with unpleasant side effects. An effective treatment to reduce anxiety could also help improve overall health.
“In general, people with good coping skills tend to have a higher quality of life and lower mortality rates than people without such coping skills,” explained Remes, “Good coping can be an important life resource for preserving health. For the first time, we show that good coping skills can buffer the negative impact of deprivation on mental health, such as having generalised anxiety disorder.”
“Of course, more work needs to be done on this, but this points us in an important direction,” said Remes.