Coping strategies among individuals with multiple physical symptoms: A general population-based cross-sectional study

Isabella Raasthøj*, Sanne Rasmussen*, Tina Birgitte Wisbech Carstensen*, Sonja Wehberg*, Marianne Rosendal*, Dorte Ejg Jarbøl*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objective: Coping has been suggested as a perpetuating factor for physical symptoms. The aim of this study was to examine the use of the coping strategies approach, resignation, and diversion in individuals with multiple physical symptoms according to the construct of Bodily Distress Syndrome (BDS). Methods: This cross-sectional study was part of the nationwide web-based survey Danish Symptom Cohort (DaSC). In total, 100,000 individuals were invited to participate, and individuals eligible for the present study were respondents aged 20–64 years without a current or recent pregnancy. Multiple physical symptoms were identified using the BDS checklist, and coping was assessed by the Brief Approach/Avoidance Coping Questionnaire. Statistical analyses included descriptive statistics and multinomial and logistic regression. Results: A total of 35,810 respondents were included in the study, of which 8512 (23.8%) fulfilled the criteria for having multiple physical symptoms. This group of respondents had lower coping scores on approach and higher coping scores on resignation and diversion compared with the non-BDS group. The regression analyses showed that high scores on approach were associated with a lower probability of having multiple symptoms (adjusted OR 0.92, 95% CI: 0.91–0.92), whereas high scores on diversion and resignation were associated with a higher probability of having multiple symptoms (adjusted OR 1.10; 95% CI: 1.09–1.11 and adjusted OR 1.19; 95% CI: 1.18–1.20, respectively). Conclusion: The study supports the hypothesis that experiencing multiple physical symptoms is associated with certain coping strategies. This is relevant knowledge for health care professionals who will be treating this patient group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111140
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Approach/avoidance
  • Bodily distress syndrome
  • Coping
  • Functional somatic symptoms
  • General population
  • Multiple physical symptoms


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