Research/studies Worker health and wellness Workplace exposures

Psychological capital can help workers cope with pandemic-related stress, researchers say

Photo: zdenkam/iStockphoto

Morgantown, WV — Workers struggling with isolation and other issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic can harness their “psychological capital” to create adaptive coping strategies to help manage stress, results of a recent study suggest.

Researchers from Salisbury University and West Virginia University conducted an online survey of 378 full-time workers in May 2020 to see how psychological capital – or PsyCap, a positive state of mind characterized by self-efficacy, optimism, hope and resiliency – influenced self-perceived stress levels. The respondents had an average age of 35.

The workers who said they use adaptive coping strategies such as exercise, meditation or social networking reportedly fared better at dealing with work stress than those who used maladaptive coping strategies, which include binge drinking and substance use/misuse. Responses from the workers in the latter group indicated they had less psychological capital then those in the former group.

In a WVU press release, study author Jeffery Houghton, a management professor at the university, recommends employers offer training or workshops focused on enhancing psychological capital.


“A compelling concept from a practical standpoint is that, unlike something like your personality, which is relatively stable – you can’t change your personality that easily, PsyCap is something that’s considered to be malleable. It can change and be improved,” Houghton said in the release. “Workshops to help people improve their level of this cognitive resource can in fact make them more adaptive with their coping styles.”

The study was published online Aug. 20 in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.

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