Background: Carers of dependent older people experience high levels of psychological distress. However, little is known about the effects of coping on carer distress over time. In this one year longitudinal study we investigated the relationship between distress, and coping strategies in a representative sample of family carers living in Spain. Methods: Primary carers of older people were recruited (N = 200). We used probability sampling and collected data via individual interviews from 2013 to 2015. Variables investigated included psychological distress, coping, and levels of objective and subjective burden. Panel data analysis was used to test a model of association of psychological distress, and coping strategies controlling for key confounders. Results: Acceptance and emotional support were the most frequently used strategies, whereas behavioural disengagement and humour were the least used. In the panel data regressions, positive reframing (B = -0.79, p < 0.001), self-distraction (B = -0.46, p = 0.034), substance use (B = 0.57, p < 0.001) and denial (B = 0.57, p = 0,049) were significantly related to psychological distress at one year follow-up. Limitations: Limitations include participant drop out and assessing substance use coping via a brief measure. Conclusions: Positive reframing and self-distraction were longitudinally associated with lower levels of carer psychological distress. Using denial and substance use coping increased distress long-term. Our results suggest that interventions that focus on positive reframing and assisting carers in decreasing dysfunctional coping may be useful therapeutic targets mitigating carer psychological morbidity.