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Is a Natural Resilience to Life Stressors the Norm? One Study Suggests No!

March 25th, 2016

Arizona State University researchers have determined that a natural resilience to life stressors is not the norm after all, although until now many have claimed that this is the case. When a life altering event occurs the researchers found that people may “struggle considerably and for longer periods of time” than previously believed. The study results and data were published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Study co-author and assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University Dr. Frank Infurna explained “We show that, contrary to an extensive body of research, when individuals are confronted with major life stressors, such as spousal loss, divorce, or unemployment, they are likely to show substantial declines in well-being and these declines can linger for several years. Previous research largely claimed that individuals are typically resilient to major life stressors. Whereas when we test these assumptions more thoroughly, we find that most individuals are deeply affected and it can take several years for them to recover and get back to previous levels of functioning.”

According to Dr. Infurna the natural resilience to life stressors that has always been assumed in the past may not hold true after all, and there are many variables at play in each case. “Our findings go against the grain and show there can be more to the picture than that,” Infurna said. “It may not be the case that most people are unperturbed and doing fine. We used previous research as a basis and analyzed the data based on their specifications. Then we used our own specifications that we feel are more in line with conceptual assumptions and we found contrasting results. The previous research postulated that most people, anywhere from 50 to 70 percent, would show a trajectory characterized by no change. They are largely unperturbed by life’s major events. We found that it usually took people much longer — several years — to return to their previous levels of functioning. These are major qualitative shifts in a person’s life and it can have a lasting impact on their lives. It provides some evidence that if most people are affected, then interventions certainly should be utilized in terms of helping these individuals in response to these events.”

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