Predicting Proximal Health Responses to Reminders of Death: The Influence of Coping Style and Health Optimism

Document Type


Publication Date



Terror management, coping style, health optimism

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Research derived from terror management theory (TMT) suggests that conscious contemplations of mortality instigate efforts to remove such threatening cognitions from focal attention. Though efforts to manage death concerns in focal attention can positively affect one's health (e.g., engaging in health conscious behavior), such efforts can also negatively affect one's health (e.g., denying vulnerability to disease). The current research explores how individual differences in coping style and health optimism relate to the ways in which people respond to death-related cognitions in focal attention. Study 1 found that adaptive coping was associated with increased health behavioral intentions immediately after death thoughts were made salient (i.e., when death thoughts were still in focal attention) but not after a delay. Study 2 found that immediately after death thoughts were made salient, health optimism was associated with increased disease-detecting behavioral intentions relating to breast cancer. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Psychology and Health, v. 21, issue 5, p. 593-614