"If you do nothing about stress, the next thing you know, you're shattered": Perspectives on African American men's stress, coping and health from African American men and key women in their lives

Katrina R. Ellis, Derek M. Griffith, Julie Ober Allen, Roland J. Thorpe, Marino A. Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Stress has been implicated as a key contributor to poor health outcomes; however, few studies have examined how African American men and women explicitly describe the relationships among stress, coping, and African American men's health. In this paper, we explore strategies men use to cope with stress, and beliefs about the consequences of stress for African American men's health behaviors, morbidity and mortality from the perspectives of African American men and women. A phenomenological analytic approach was used to examine focus group data collected from 154 African American men (18 focus groups) and 77 African American women (8 focus groups). Women's perspectives were captured because women often observe men under stress and can provide support to men during stressful times. Our findings indicate that African American men in this study responded to stress by engaging in often identified coping behaviors (i.e., consumption of calorie dense food, exercise, spiritually-related activities). Men in our study, however, did not always view their responses to stress as explicit coping mechanisms. There was also some discordance between men's and women's perceptions of men's coping behaviors as there were occasions where they seemed to interpret the same behavior differently (e.g., resting vs. avoidance). Men and women believed that stress helped to explain why African American men had worse health than other groups. They identified mental, physical and social consequences of stress. We conclude by detailing implications for conceptualizing and measuring coping and we outline key considerations for interventions and further research about stress, coping and health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-114
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume139
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

Keywords

  • African American
  • Coping
  • Masculinity
  • Men's health
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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