Early-life predictors of resilience and related outcomes up to 66 years later in the 6-day sample of the 1947 Scottish mental survey

Mathew A Harris, Caroline E Brett, John M Starr, Ian J Deary, Andrew M McIntosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

PURPOSE: Psychological resilience, the ability to manage and quickly recover from stress and trauma, is associated with a range of health and wellbeing outcomes. Resilience is known to relate to personality, self-esteem and positive affect, and may also depend upon childhood experience and stress. In this study, we investigated the role of early-life contributors to resilience and related factors in later life.

METHODS: We used data from the 6-day sample of the Scottish mental survey 1947, an initially representative sample of Scottish children born in 1936. They were assessed on a range of factors between the ages of 11 and 27 years, and resilience and other outcomes at 77 years.

RESULTS: Higher adolescent dependability unexpectedly predicted lower resilience in older-age, as did childhood illnesses, while a count of specific stressors experienced throughout early life significantly predicted higher later-life resilience. We also observed significant cross-sectional correlations between resilience and measures of physical health, mental health, wellbeing and loneliness. Some of the associations between early-life predictors and later-life outcomes were significantly mediated by resilience.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results support the hypothesis that stress throughout early life may help to build resilience in later-life, and demonstrate the importance of resilience as a mediator of other influences on health and wellbeing in older age. We suggest that the mechanisms determining how early-life stress leads to higher resilience are worthy of further investigation, and that psychological resilience should be a focus of research and a target for therapeutic interventions aiming to improve older-age health and wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Early online date15 Feb 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Feb 2016


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