An extensive literature documents the health risks associated with adverse life experiences throughout the life cycle, ranging from acute events (e.g., the death of a spouse) to chronic conditions (e.g., childhood poverty). Little is known, however, about which factors enable people to navigate such adversities successfully and hence age in good health. Understanding resilience to adversity lays the foundation for the promotion of healthy aging, particularly among traditionally disadvantaged members of the population.
This paper employs the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), which tracks psychosocial history and health information for a random sample of 10,317 men and women born in 1939. First, it demonstrates that cumulative adversity throughout the life course places people at elevated risk for morbidity as they age. People who have experienced two or more adversities spanning childhood, family life, and employment experiences are twice as likely to suffer from disability than be in excellent health in midlife as people who have not experienced cumulative adversity.
Next, the paper shows that an array of psychosocial advantages enables people who have faced adversity to overcome it and maintain or regain excellent health as they age. Among people who had faced cumulative adversity, people with four or more of five advantages (childhood advantage in ability, support, or education; high social contact as an adult; favorable life evaluations; good coping style; and high levels of social support) were over seven times as likely to be in excellent rather than ill health as those who only have three or fewer advantages.
Learning Objectives: 1. Identify combinations of psychosocial factors which promote resilience to adversity. 2. Discuss strategies to reduce health disparities through psycho-social interventions
Keywords: Health Promotion, Aging
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.
The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA