October 18, 2019

Resilience is the "it" word of 2019. From the headlines and sound bites on the topic in political, sports, and celebrity news to the focus on health and wellness programs for employees, as well as self-care apps, resilience has entered the American lexicon as yet another personal wellness goal: to have more of it.

"The biggest finding is the gap between how resilient people claim to be versus their actual resilience assessment score," states Tom Carr, SVP, Data, Content, and Marketing Science at Everyday Health. The Everyday Health research is comprised of survey results from a random sample of 3,583 U.S.-based men and women ages 13 to 73 across a varied geographic, economic, and cultural spectrum. "The 49-question online survey utilized the 14-item Resilience Scale (RS14), a scientific approach used to assess an individual's actual resilience versus self-perceived resilience," says Kim Kovacs, Head of Product Commercialization at Everyday Health Consumer, adding that "The survey tool we created to scientifically measure resilience in the respondents revealed that 83 percent believed they had high levels of mental/emotional resilience, when in fact just 57 percent scored as resilient."

Teaming up with an innovative group of unparalleled experts and voices, Everyday Health today released the results of a year-long effort resulting in Why 2019 Is the Year of Resilience. The Everyday Health special report features the latest research on resilience, key results from our survey, an assessment tool that determines your personal resilience score, and more. "Our Everyday Health mission is to inspire and enable wellness. The first step on that path is finding the self-confidence that comes from the ability to access trusted resources and gain personal insights that spark one's 'aha' moments. Those personally-relevant realizations become the motivation to set and achieve a wellness goal," says Nan Forte, MS, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Everyday Health Consumer. "Our approach to data-driven content creation is responsive; we go beyond the reporting and enable the doing. That requires fielding a highly-qualified and diverse team of experts and advisors to help derive the right data, and designing the content experiences that can change behavior."

The Ohio State University's Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, RN, the very first person to hold the title University Chief Wellness Officer at an institute of higher learning, was enlisted to review and approve the Everyday Health resilience survey design. Amit Sood, MD, the executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being in Rochester, Minnesota; former professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic; creator of Mayo Clinic Resilient Mind; and author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, codeveloped the Everyday Health resilience assessment and score. Dr. Sood is also a founding member of the Everyday Health Wellness Advisory Board, created in 2018 by Everyday Health Editor in Chief Maureen Connolly, an award-winning health journalist, book author, and podcaster who wrote the foreword to the Everyday Health special report on resilience and selected award-winning journalist Abby Ellin to author it.

Ellin is the author of books Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married, released this year, and Teenage Waistland: A Former Fat Kid Weighs In on Living Large, Losing Weight, and How Parents Can (and Can't) Help, published in 2005. For five years she wrote the "Preludes" column in the Sunday Money and Business section of The New York Times, which featured stories about young people and their finances. In the Everyday Health Special report, Ellin writes, "Because even if your fiancé isn't forging prescriptions under your name, the world is pretty challenging. You never know what's going to happen when you walk out the door, and the media is only too happy to relay the possibilities. Terrorist attacks. School shootings. Corporate fraud. This doesn't include the daily vitriol spewing from politicians on both sides of the aisle." To deal with all of this, Sood says "A person in the world today requires extraordinary fortitude, gumption and resilience. Resilience is doing well when you shouldn't be doing well. It's your ability to withstand adversity and bounce back and grow."

"In 2017, we launched our original research series and started with defining and rating women's wellness versus their physical health," says Carr. "Based on those results revealing that stress, especially financial, emotional, and social, had a greater impact on wellness than one's physical health status, we focused our 2018 research on stress with our 'United States of Stress' report, declaring that stress is a national epidemic. The biggest revelation our original research revealed about stress: Acute stressful events can be rechanneled into a healthy growth process, but chronic unrelenting stress can be fatal. That then begged the question of what to do about chronic stress, and we landed on resilience. Our challenge became to both scientifically and socially best describe the internal and external factors associated with resilience, and how to facilitate building those skills."

Editor in Chief Maureen Connolly gives the upside: "We found out that resilience is not always a personality trait we're born with, but according to the experts, it's a skill that can be learned. The important nuance in the word 'skill' versus 'trait' is the good news here. When we work to improve our resilience, we're actually rewiring our brains to be better equipped for handling life's myriad challenges, big and small."

How Resilience Impacts Health and Wellness

  •     When looking at the associations among resilience levels, disease, and mental health, those who scored as less resilient reported a higher prevalence of asthma and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and were also significantly (51%) more likely to report a diagnosis of clinical depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD, bipolar disorder, ADHD, OCD, or an eating disorder.
  •     Less resilient Americans are more likely to have experienced the loss of a loved one to unnatural causes like suicide (45%), a car accident (33%), drug overdose (22%), or gun violence (16%).
  •     The most resilient Americans (93%) believe mental health is as important as physical health. Yet only one-third of survey respondents reported that they were "likely to ask for help when faced with a negative situation."

What to Say and How to Say It

  •     Going through a tough time? The most common response people said they hear: "Are you okay?" (55%), but they would much rather hear: "I'm so sorry, I love you" (59%).
  •     More than 50% hear: "How are you doing?" and "Everything will be okay," but they would much rather hear: "Remember that time when they/we … (e.g., telling stories of lost loved ones)" (52%) and "Let me know if there is anything I can do" (49%).
  •     The top three worst things to say: "Everything happens for a reason" (24%), "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" (22%), "Don't worry about it — it will be fine" (20%).

Resilience Comes With Age and Time

  •     Boomers and Gen Xers are the most resilient generations. Boomers have the highest resilience levels, measured at 71%, followed by GenXers at 55%.

Resilience Role Models

  •     Resilience role models for people of any age? They were nearly tied across the board, with Oprah (22%), Ellen DeGeneres (22%), and Nelson Mandela (21%) ranking as top resilience role models.

Political Party Resilience

  •     With what's sure to be a long year of campaigning ahead, Republicans surveyed ranked as the most resilient political party, at 65%. While Democrats think big and ranked their own resilience levels at 84%, the reality, when put to the test, shows their actual resilience levels are 58% — just over a quarter (26%) difference between perception and reality. Independents rank the lowest, at 50%.


  •     Parents don't have time to think about being resilient; they just are. Parents' resilience levels rank at 65% compared to 47% of nonparents. Parents are also less likely to "overthink things" compared to nonparents (42% vs. 52%).


  •     African Americans rank the highest when it comes to resilience, at 62%, while Asian Americans rank as the least resilient race, at 46%. Whites rank at 57%; Hispanics 55%; and American Indians at 51.8%.



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