• severity of impairment;
  • stress emotions;
  • coping;
  • well-being;
  • arthritis;
  • ageing

The purpose of this longitudinal study was to test a model of the relationships among social economic status, gender, severity of impairment, stress emotions, coping strategies and psychological well-being. A sample of 78 elderly women and men, 60 years old or over, and diagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis since mid-life, volunteered to participate in the study. Twelve months later, 64 of these elderly people were re-interviewed. Path analysis was used to examine the empirical import of the Lazarus and Folkman theory of stress and coping. Analysis of variance for repeated measures was used to test for changes over time among the study variable. A consistent relationship between severity of impairment, emotions, coping strategies and psychological well-being emerged from the data at time one and time two. Choice of coping strategies and psychological well-being were primarily influenced by emotions. The best predictor of psychological well-being at both time periods was the stress emotion of challenge. At both time periods, optimistic and self-reliant coping strategies were used most often and evasive and emotive strategies the least.