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Gender differences in problem solving abilities: Implications for health promotion

Erin Largo-Wight, MS, Department of Health Education & Behavior, University of Florida, FLG room 5, Stadium Road, Gainesville, FL 32611, (352) 392-0583, elargo@ufl.edu

Previous research has shown that perceived problem solving abilities have predicted less perceived stress and better self-reported physical health symptoms (e.g. chest pains, headaches, indigestion, and lower back pain). Problem solving abilities may prevent stress and stress-related physical health consequences by serving as “cognitive resources” that reduce the primary appraisal of threat. With the abilities to solve everyday problems, individuals may not appraise a once threatening situation as a threat; thereby preventing stress and stress-related physical health consequences such as hypertension. Because problem solving abilities have been shown to promote physical and mental health, it is important for health promotion practitioners to understand how to effectively promote problem solving abilities. The purpose of this study was to examine gender differences in perceived problem solving abilities. The Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ), Personal Problem Solving Inventory (PSI), and a stress-related physical health symptoms checklist were used to measure perceived stress, problem solving abilities, and health among undergraduate college students (N=232). Results indicated that males reported statistically significantly better self-reported health symptoms (p < 0.001) and perceived personal control problem solving ability (p < 0.05) than females. Individual item analysis of the PSI revealed that males scored significantly better on problem solving items related to perceived confidence and ability and females scored significantly better on problem solving items related to emotional awareness and deliberation (p < 0.05). Implications for gender-specific problem solving training and promotion discussed.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:
    I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

    Difference and Inequality: Mobilizing for Change

    The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA