Do Higher Levels of Resilience Buffer the Deleterious Impact of Chronic Illness on Disability in Later Life?

Gerontologist. 2016 Jun;56(3):514-24. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu068. Epub 2014 Jul 25.


Purpose of the study: In examining the ability of resilience, or the ability to navigate adversity in a manner that protects well-being, to buffer the impact of chronic disease onset on disability in later life, the authors tested 2 hypotheses: (a) People with greater levels of resilience will have lower levels of disability and (b) resilience will moderate the association between the onset of a new chronic condition and subsequent disability.

Design and methods: This study used a sample of 10,753 Americans between the ages of 51 and 98, derived from 3 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (2006-2010). Ordinary least squares regression was used to estimate the impact of resilience on changes in disability (measured as difficulty with activities of daily living [ADLs] and instrumental activities of daily living [IADLs]) over a 2-year period using a simplified resilience score.

Results: Resilience protects against increases in ADL and IADL limitations that are often associated with aging. Resilience mitigates a considerable amount of the deleterious consequences related to the onset of chronic illness and subsequent disability.

Implications: Our results support our hypotheses and are consistent with claims that high levels of resilience can protect against the negative impact of disability in later life.

Keywords: Chronic illness; Disability; Health and Retirement Study (HRS); Resilience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Retirement*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires