Greater resilience is considered a key component of successful aging, but what does resilience actually consist of? People who age successfully seem to demonstrate resilience through their ability to adapt positively in spite of age-related disease and disability. To tease out various factors that contribute to resilience, investigators used data from 1,395 women over age 60 who were participants in the Women’s Health Initiative in San Diego.

Emotional well-being, optimism, self-rated successful aging, social engagement and fewer cognitive complaints were the strongest predictors of high resilience among these older women. While resilience was also related to physical functioning, the other psychological variables were more powerful. The researchers suggested that long-term health benefits might be associated with resilience, but this hypothesis has not yet been tested.

This study appeared in the Journal of Psychiatric Research (2008; 43 [2], 148–54).

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA