Abstract: The MIDUS (Midlife in the U.S.) national study, begun in 1995 with over 7,000 Americans aged 25–74, broke new ground in health research via its in-depth assessment of psychological and social strengths. My presentation will summarize new evidence from MIDUS documenting human resilience, construed broadly as the capacity to prevail in the face of adversity. The types of adversity considered will include social inequalities, the challenges of aging, and dealing with unexpected, non-normative experience. The integrative theme is how psychosocial strengths in such contexts afford protection against biological risk factors and adverse health outcomes. Briefly noted will be neural underpinnings of resilience as well as possible cultural variants in what constitutes prevailing in the face of adversity.
Bio: Carol D. Ryff is Director of the Institute on Aging and Marie Jahoda Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research is strongly multidisciplinary and focuses on how various aspects of psychological well-being are contoured by broad social structural influences such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and culture as well as how psychological well-being is linked with biological processes (e.g., neuroendocrine regulation, inflammation, cardiovascular risk) implicated in physical health outcomes. The latter work addresses the mechanisms and pathways through which well-being may confer protection against, or recovery from, illness and disease. Resilience is thus an overarching theme in putting these many levels of analysis (social structural, psychosocial, neurobiological) together. Dr. Ryff currently directs the MIDUS (Midlife in the U.S.) investigation as well as a parallel study in Japan, known as MIDJA (Midlife in Japan). Integrative science, which brings together expertise from across disciplines, each of which contribute important influences on how people age, is her abiding commitment.