Mastery of stress and health in women living with HIV infection

Gray, Jennifer
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This study described the personal and environmental resources used by the women to cope with HIV infection and the effect of these resources on mastery of stress and on health. The conceptual map for the study was based on Lazarus and Folkman's cognitive transactional theory of stress (1984) and Younger's theory of mastery (1991).

A non-random sample of 80 women living in 16 cities in 10 states completed a packet of research instruments. Women who were caring for another person who was also seropositive (n = 20) and seropositive women who were not caring for another seropositive person (n = 60) completed research packets. A third planned group of seronegative HIV caregivers was too small (n = 5) for meaningful analysis. The packet of research instruments contained a Demographic Questionnaire, the Interpersonal Relationship Inventory (Tilden et al., 1990b), the Spiritual Perspective Scale (Reed, 1986), the clinical version of the Mastery of Stress Instrument (Younger, 1993), and the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form Health Survey (Stewart et al., 1988).

The sample was heterogenous for race, marital status, income, and education, with a mean age of 35.8 years. The women had been living with HIV infection for an average of 45.87 months. Heterosexual contact was the primary mode of transmission.

The first hypothesis was tested using multiple regression. Resources exerted a greater influence on mastery of stress than did stress factors. However, resources (education, income, support network, social support, and spiritual perspective) did not explain more of the variance in health than stress factors (interpersonal conflict, stage of the infection, caregiving responsibilities, and perceived stress intensity.)

The second hypothesis tested whether women who were HIV seropositive caregivers experienced mastery of stress and health to a less degree than women who were not HIV caregivers. No significant difference was found in either mastery of stress or in health and the hypothesis was rejected. Social support and spiritual perspective were positive influences on mastery of stress. Interpersonal conflict and perceived stress intensity had negative influences on health. Clinical assessment of HIV seropositive women should include questions about social support, spirituality, interpersonal conflict, and perceptions of stress.

Health and environmental sciences, Psychology, Immune deficiency, Coping, Social support, Spirituality