Methods: Data and Sample. The analytic sample comprised 319 individuals who reported being essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 50% of participants identified as female, and 92% identified as heterosexual. Nearly 68% of participants identified as Black or African American, 18% identified as Native American or Alaskan Native, 6% identified as Latinx or Hispanic, and 7% identified as Asian or Native Hawaiian. Measures. Respondents were asked if they had engaged in any of 21 possible coping behaviors in response to pandemic-related stress. These 21 behaviors served as observed indicators for the Latent Class Analysis (LCA). Generally, coping behaviors were classified into the following five domains: (a) relaxation/distraction (6 items); (b) substance use (5 items); (c) eating (4 items); (d) physical activity (3 items); and (e) support seeking (3 items). We also assessed differences across latent classes using measures of perceived stress, COVID-19 anxiety, and other socio-demographic and work-related measures. Analysis. LCA was used to explore the presence of unobserved subgroups within the sample that clustered around similar response patterns across the life-stress experiences items. After identifying the optimal or best fitting solution, the three-step procedure outlined by Asparouhov and Muthén (2014) was used to estimate covariate differences across latent classes.
Results: The class enumeration process signaled that a five-class solution was optimal. The five classes were labeled as follows (a) moderately multifaceted coping (9%); (b) highly multifaceted coping (7%); (c) coping through social support, self-care, and distractions (28%); (d) business-as-usual coping (43%); and (e) coping through smoking, drinking, and media use (13%). Levels of perceived stress prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic were highest among those in the highly multifaceted and moderately multifaceted patterns, although individuals in the smoking, drinking, and media use pattern—disproportionately male (80%)—reported the largest increase in perceived stress over time. Levels of perceived stress and COVID-19 anxiety were lowest among those in the coping through social support, self-care, and distractions pattern.
Conclusions and Implications: To help mitigate suboptimal patterns of coping behaviors related to COVID-19 stress and anxiety, essential workers of color could benefit from efforts aimed at developing and sustaining social support systems and increasing knowledge of and time devoted to implementing healthy self-care practices.