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J Trauma Stress. 2011 Dec;24(6):680-90. doi: 10.1002/jts.20695. Epub 2011 Dec 6.

Long-term effects of coping with extreme stress: longitudinal study of Vietnam-era repatriated prisoners of war.

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VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA 02130, USA.


Captivity stressors and coping strategies were assessed shortly after the repatriation of Vietnam-era prisoners of war, and physical and mental health were assessed almost three decades later. Given research on coping goodness-of-fit, specifically the extent to which coping effects depend on situational controllability, we proposed that endorsement of the usefulness of avoidance-based strategies in captivity would be predictive of better later-life health. Findings indicated that approach-based and avoidance-based coping both moderated the link between physical torture and later physical health functional status, whereas approach-based coping moderated the link between injuries at capture and later mental health. Specifically, greater endorsement of avoidance-based coping was associated with better long-term physical health for prisoners who experienced the most physical torture. Lower endorsement of approach-based coping was associated with better long-term mental health for prisoners who reported the most injuries at the time of capture.

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