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Testing Independent and Buffer Models of the Influence of Leisure Participation on Stress-Coping and Adaptational Outcomes

Yoshi Iwasaki


The rise of stress levels is a major threat to the health of individuals and society as a whole. Not only does stress and coping research contribute to better understanding the mechanisms by which ways of coping influence the relationship between stress and health, but the knowledge of coping mechanisms can also be applied to developing health promotion and lifestyle intervention programs in which stress management is an important component to help citizens prevent ill-health and reduce health costs. The purpose of this study was to test two theoretical models of leisure and coping: (a) an independent model and (b) a buffer model when the effects of general coping were taken into account. Specifically, the study focused on examining what types of leisure best contribute to coping with stress, and how the processes that link specific activities to coping outcomes operate. A repeated assessment design was used to gain stronger confidence in directions of the relationships examined. The participants represented police and emergency response service workers because this occupational group tends to regularly experience very high stress levels. The specific aspects of leisure examined were frequency and enjoyment of participation in leisure activities.

The findings suggest that the effects of leisure participation on stresscoping and health differ depending on the type of leisure engaged in. Relaxing leisure, outdoor recreation, and hobbies were found to have “main effects” supporting the independent model, whereas leisure travel was found to have “interaction effects” supporting the buffer model. Interestingly, social leisure and cultural leisure were found to have both “main effects” and “interaction effects” supporting both the independent and buffer models. The findings add to the accumulating evidence that physical activity and exercise may not always contribute to effectively coping with stress. The evidence challenges the current narrow view of health promotion programs (e.g., work-site health programs) that mostly rely on physical exercise and fitness as a tool for managing stress. The study highlights the importance of giving greater attention to a broader range of leisure activities including non-physical types of leisure as a means for dealing with stress and promoting health. Specifically, the results suggest that (a) in addition to general coping strategies such as problem-focused coping, leisure pursuits can act as a means of managing stress, and that (b) stress-coping benefits of leisure can be gained from more than just physical forms of leisure—non-physical forms of leisure can provide such benefits, as well.


Leisure behavior and experience, frequency and enjoyment of leisure, stress reduction, coping effectiveness, physical and mental health, benefits of leisure

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