Resilience Factors in Recovery

Dr. David Wiss

May 18, 2022


Early contributions to resilience concepts came from Michael Rutter [1–4] who described a “steeling effect” where the experience of stress or adversity can sometimes strengthen resistance to later-life stress [5]. Some people just tend to “bounce back” easier than others.

Resilience starts with the assumption that given the same dose of stress, trauma, or adversity, there will always be marked heterogeneity in response [6]. In some cases, appropriate experience in adult life can counter the effects of life stressors. Have you found activities that counteract stress and adversity?

Resilience is best understood as the process of multiple biological, psychological, social, and ecological systems interacting in ways that help individuals to regain, sustain, or improve their mental well-being when challenged by one or more risk factors [7]. Are you here for it?

Resilience is a dynamic process (not a trait) that operates through the lifespan- before, during, and after adversity. It encompasses several interacting features, including emotion regulation abilities, flexibility, coping strategies, health behaviors, self-esteem, prosocial skills, and a positive outlook. Mental health resilience describes the process of effective adaptation, naturally linked to the question of preventing stress-related disorders. Prevention is key, particularly given the known links between trauma and addictions

Most research suggests that childhood adversity hinders resilience. Among 14-year-olds exposed to trauma, there were significantly lower levels of resilience factors compared to those unexposed [8]. Among children ages 6-17, adverse childhood experiences decrease resilience in a dose-dependent manner after controlling for child, family, and community factors [9].

The importance of socio-contextual factors (e.g., supportive relations, and community resources) continues to emerge in resilience literature [10, 11]. Community-level resilience factors can include neighborhood safety, neighborhood amenities (e.g., libraries, parks), access to mentorship, and others. Actions that strengthen community resilience assets may partially offset the immediate harms of traumatic experiences [12]. This concept is often referred to as “community health” which is finally starting to receive the attention it deserves! 

More research is needed to understand mechanisms by which resilience factors buffer the impact of trauma on mental health, and how this may vary across different sociodemographic groups. Meanwhile, nutrition interventions as part of lifestyle medicine contribute to self-efficacy and have a wide range of biological benefits to resilience. Wise Mind Nutrition is here to help you find your “bounce back,” show how to stop stress eating, eat food for mood and brain health, and most importantly, celebrate your recovery with you! 


1. Rutter M (1985) Resilience in the Face of Adversity. Brit J Psychiat 147:598–611

2. Rutter M (1987) Psychosocial Resilience and Protective Mechanisms. Am J Orthopsychiat 57:316–331

3. Rutter M (1993) Resilience: Some conceptual considerations. J Adolescent Health 14:626–631

4. Rutter M (1995) Psychosocial Adversity: Risk, Resilience & Recovery. South Afr J Child Adolesc Ment Heal 7:75–88

5. Rutter M (2006) Implications of Resilience Concepts for Scientific Understanding. Ann Ny Acad Sci 1094:1–12

6. Rutter M (2011) Resilience: causal pathways and social ecology. In: The Social Ecology of Resilience, A Handbook of Theory and Practice. Springer Science+Business Media, pp 33–42

7. Ungar M, Theron L (2019) Resilience and mental health: how multisystemic processes contribute to positive outcomes. Lancet Psychiatry.

8. Fritz J, Fried EI, Goodyer IM, Wilkinson PO, Harmelen A-L van (2018) A Network Model of Resilience Factors for Adolescents with and without Exposure to Childhood Adversity. Sci Rep-uk 8:15774

9. Heard-Garris N, Davis MM, Szilagyi M, Kan K (2018) Childhood adversity and parent perceptions of child resilience. BMC Pediatrics 18:204

10. Bonanno GA, Mancini AD (2008) The Human Capacity to Thrive in the Face of Potential Trauma. Pediatrics 121:369–375

11. Woods-Jaeger BA, Cho B, Sexton CC, Slagel L, Goggin K (2018) Promoting Resilience: Breaking the Intergenerational Cycle of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Health Education & Behavior 45:772–780

12. Bellis MA, Hughes K, Ford K, Hardcastle KA, Sharp CA, Wood S, Homolova L, Davies A (2018) Adverse childhood experiences and sources of childhood resilience: a retrospective study of their combined relationships with child health and educational attendance. BMC Public Health 18:792