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Varieties of resilience in MIDUS

Carol Ryff, PhD, Marie Jahoda Pro­fes­sor of Psychology, Director, Insti­tute on Aging, University of Wisconsin-Madison   Web­site  |  Pub­li­ca­tions

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.