Measuring the Ability to Cope with Serious Illness

by Anita Stewart

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This Note provides a conceptual framework of coping with serious illness. A set of over 75 measures was developed assessing a variety of coping responses, context variables, and outcomes; 60 of these are multi-item measures. Reliability and validity information and suggestions for improving the measures were developed in a sample of 158 people with either cancer or myocardial infarction. Measures were constructed for beliefs about recovery from the illness, attitudes about death, attribution of the illness, sense of control, self-esteem, social networks, social support, will to live, active coping, acceptance/rejection of illness, the doctor-patient relationship, benefits of illness, positive and negative feelings, functional status, symptoms, pain, and general health. Results suggest that there are four dimensions of coping responses: relax/routine/enjoy, active distraction, concern with the illness, and rejecting the sick role. Four dimensions of context variables were: social network/social support, personal, beliefs in self-care/religious/spiritual, and belief in the efficacy of medical care.

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