Centre for Resilience

What is resilience?

What is resilience?

The art and science of resilience: overlapping fields of evidence

As health-care costs soar internationally, individual resilience, public health and the environment face ever-greater challenges. In the near future - increasingly fraught with unpredictable and accumulating demands - a deeper understanding of individual and communal resilience will have widespread human and economic consequences.

Individuals, organisations - arguably whole societies – are under increasing and potentially unsustainable pressure to produce and consume. In this context the question of how to support human flourishing is of pressing importance.  How are we to stay healthy or cope well with chronic disease and old age; how can industry best support an engaged and creative workforce; how can government policy help communities cohere and thrive; how can economic growth be sustained without environmental harm and species loss?

A rapidly expanding evidence-base can tell us how culture, community, policy, workplace, beliefs, behaviour and learning each in their way support or undermine individual and communal resilience.

Resilience flower

A truly 21st century grasp of individual and communal resilience is what’s needed. The complex interacting factors involved highlight many important opportunities for research and education. Developing them will call for collaborative trans-disciplinary effort and wide-ranging approaches to inquiry and learning.

Evidence is accumulating in three main areas: epidemiological studies implying the existence of resilient groups (eg non-hostile temperament as a cardio-protective factor); studies indicating that neuro-immunological dysfunction can help explain the physiological impact of psychosocial predicaments (eg killer-T cell dysfunction among new widowers); and intervention studies suggesting that by changing attitudes or coping styles or beliefs, health outcomes can be improved (eg trials indicating improved outcomes in cardiac catheterization among people who have learned to use imagery for relaxation). There is evidence too for the resilience-creating potential of exercise, some forms of complementary therapy and psychotherapy, for movement and artistic therapies, and the impact of workplace-culture and the built and the natural environment.

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