Mediating effects of coping, personal belief, and social support on the relationship among stress, depression, and smoking behaviour in university students

Jing Sun (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Nicholas Buys (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Donald Stewart (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
David Shum (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Publication date: 22 February 2011



The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether university students' smoking behaviour is associated with higher levels of stress and depression directly, or indirectly, via the mediation of coping, personal beliefs and social support.


The study design involves a cross‐sectional survey. Structural equation modelling was employed to explore the relationships between smoking behaviour, stress and depression via the mediating effects of coping resources, personal beliefs and social support.


The higher the stress and depression levels, the more likely the respondents' were to adopt disengagement coping strategies and to engage in smoking behaviour. Stress was not found to have a significant direct effect on smoking behaviour when depression, active coping abilities and social support were included as mediators in the model. Thus, if stress is high yet coping skills are also high and personal beliefs are anti‐smoking, the likelihood of smoking was low.

Research limitations/implications

Disengagement coping strategies significantly increased the likelihood of smoking when stress heightened depression level. However, stress did not independently increase the chance of smoking when active coping and social support were moderating the effects of depression on smoking behaviour. Personal beliefs also acted as an independent contributor to increase the likelihood of smoking when pro‐smoking beliefs were held by individuals. Overall, this study suggests that personal coping strategies and personal beliefs, with social support, are important protective mechanisms through which stress and depression influence smoking behaviour.

Practical implications

Health promotion programmes to encourage smoking cessation should therefore include measures to encourage young adults to adopt active coping strategies (e.g. exercise, recreational activities) to make interventions effective in reducing smoking rate.


This study identifies important mechanisms that underpin smoking behaviour among university students. The results provide evidence that supports the resilience perspective that personal coping resources, personal beliefs and protective factors, such as social support, are important factors either to lead people to adopt smoking behaviour, or to decrease the likelihood of smoking.



Sun, J., Buys, N., Stewart, D. and Shum, D. (2011), "Mediating effects of coping, personal belief, and social support on the relationship among stress, depression, and smoking behaviour in university students", Health Education, Vol. 111 No. 2, pp. 133-146.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.