Relationship between physical activity and coping with stress in people with multiple sclerosis: A moderated mediation model with self-efficacy and disability level as variables

Elsevier, International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, Volume 24, 1 January 2024
Wilski M., Brola W., Koper M., Gabryelski J., Luniewska M., Fudala M. et al.

Purpose: An increasing number of studies support the beneficial relationship between physical activity and stress coping in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). However, there has been limited understanding of the variables that may influence the nature of this relationship. Therefore, based on the social-cognitive framework and previous research, we aimed to examine the association between the habitual physical activity of people with MS and their coping effectiveness. Furthermore, we sought to determine the extent to which self-efficacy acts as a mediator in this relationship, considering the level of disability as a moderator variable. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, a total of 351 people with MS participated. The participants were asked to complete several assessment tools, including the Mini-COPE Inventory for Measurement—Coping with Stress, the Generalized Self-Efficacy Scale, and the Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire. Additionally, a neurologist assessed the severity of the disease using the Expanded Disability Status Scale. Information on the demographic and clinical characteristics of the participants was collected via a self-report survey. Two moderated mediation analyses were conducted as part of the study. Results: The study findings indicated a positive correlation between engagement in physical activity and self-efficacy among participants with high and medium disability levels. This, in turn, demonstrated a positive association with effective stress-coping strategies and a negative association with ineffective coping methods. In particular, a significant relationship was observed between involvement in physical activity and self-efficacy in participants with high disability, while it was not statistically significant in participants with low disability. Conclusion: Physical activity was associated with improved psychosocial functioning in people with high levels of disability caused by MS. This association may be attributed to factors such as increased self-efficacy and improved stress coping. However, the relationship between physical activity and psychosocial functioning was less evident in people with low disability caused by MS.