The longitudinal relation between patterns of goal management and psychological health in people with arthritis: The need for adaptive flexibility

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Objectives: Due to their disease, patients with polyarthritis face the task of reconciling their threatened personal goals with their capabilities. Previous cross-sectional research on patients with chronic disease related higher levels of goal management strategies to lower levels of distress and higher levels of well-being. This study was the first to focus longitudinally on goal management patterns that combined strategies originating from different goal management theories. Our first study objective was to identify patterns that consisted of various strategies of goal management among patients with polyarthritis. Subsequently, the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between these patterns and the psychological health of the patients were studied.

Methods: A longitudinal questionnaire study with three measurements of goal management and psychological health was conducted among 331 patients with polyarthritis. Stability of goal management over time was analysed with ANOVAs. Patterns were identified using cluster analysis at baseline, based on the following strategies: Goal maintenance, goal adjustment, goal disengagement, and goal reengagement. Longitudinal relationships between the patterns and psychological health (specifically: Depression, anxiety, purpose in life, positive affect, and social participation) were analysed using a generalized estimating equations analysis.

Results: Three goal management patterns were found: ‘Moderate engagement’, ‘Broad goal management repertoire’, and ‘Holding on’. Patients with the ‘Broad goal management repertoire’ pattern had the highest level of psychological health. The ‘Holding on’ pattern was identified as the most unfavourable in terms of psychological health. Over time, stable differences in levels of psychological health between the patterns were found.

Conclusions: This study was the first to reveal patterns of several goal management strategies and their longitudinal relationship to psychological health. Psychosocial support for arthritis patients with lower psychological health should focus on helping patients to become familiar with a broad range of goal management strategies when dealing with threatened goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-489
JournalBritish journal of health psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2016


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