Cultural coping as a risk for depression and hypertension: the SABPA prospective study
Le Roux, S.
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Objectives: In past studies, a lack of social support has been associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, particularly in black Africans. However, whether or not coping strategies have beneficial effects on blood pressure (BP) and emotional well-being is not clear. We therefore assessed the relationship between BP levels, depression and coping strategies. Methods: A prospective bi-ethnic cohort followed 359 black and white South African school teachers (aged 20–65 years) over a three-year period. Data on ambulatory 24-hour blood pressure, depression, coping strategies (defensiveness, social support, avoidance) and culture-specific coping scores (cognitive/ emotional debriefing, spiritual-, collectivistic and ritualcentred) were obtained. Results: Over three years, chronic depression (38 vs 19%) and hypertension (68 vs 35%) were apparent in blacks (d-values > 0.3) as opposed to whites. In both groups, depression was accompanied by more avoidance (loss-of-control) coping. Consistent spiritual and increasing collectivistic coping were apparent in whites. Over time, increasing defensiveness (OR 1.08, p ≤ 0.05) and ritual coping (OR 1.27, p ≤ 0.01; d-values > 0.5), predicted chronic depression in blacks. The change in their symptoms of depression predicted 24-hour hypertension (OR 1.11, p = 0.04). No similar associations existed in whites. Conclusions: Blacks showed increasing defensiveness and ritual- and spiritual-centred coping in an attempt to combat chronic depression, which may be costly, as reflected by their chronic hypertensive status. Whites showed consistent spiritual- centred coping while utilising avoidance or loss-of-control coping, with a trend of seeking less social support or isolation as a coping mechanism. During counselling of depressed patients with hypertension, the beneficial effects of social support and spiritual coping may be of great importance