Physical disease and resilient outcomes: a systematic review of resilience definitions and study methods

Marjorie C Johnston, Terry Porteous, Michael A Crilly, Christopher D Burton, Alison Elliott, Lisa Iversen, Karen McArdle, Alison Murray, Louise H Phillips, Corri Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Findings from physical disease resilience research may be used to develop approaches to reduce the burden of disease. However, there is no consensus as to the definition and measurement of resilience in the context of physical disease.
The aim was to summarise the range of definitions of physical disease resilience and the approaches taken to study it in studies examining physical disease and its relationship to resilient outcomes.
Electronic databases were searched from database inception to March 2013 for studies in which physical disease was assessed for its association with resilient outcomes. Article screening, data extraction and quality assessment were carried out independently by two reviewers with disagreements resolved by a third reviewer. Results were combined using a narrative technique.
Of 2280 articles, 12 met the inclusion criteria. One study was high quality, nine studies were moderate quality and two were low quality. Common findings were that resilience involves maintaining healthy levels of functioning following adversity and is a dynamic process not a personality trait. Studies either assessed resilience based upon observed outcomes or via resilience measurement scales. Studies either considered physical disease as an adversity leading to resilience or as a variable modifying the relationship between adversity and resilience.
This work begins building consensus as to the approach to take in defining and measuring physical disease resilience. Resilience should be considered as a dynamic process which varies across the life-course and across different domains, therefore the choice of resilience measure should reflect this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-180
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Early online date8 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2015 The Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Dr. Marjorie C. Johnston is funded by a Clinical Academic Fellowship from the Chief Scientist Office, Scotland, UK (CAF/13/03) and is also supported by the Farr Institute @ Scotland. The protocol development and screening of titles and abstracts occurred while Dr. Johnston was an employee of NHS Grampian. Dr. Terry Porteous was funded by a Grant from the University of Aberdeen, UK, Pathways to a Healthy Life theme.


  • self-rated health
  • psychological resilience
  • psychobiology
  • resources
  • survivors
  • stress
  • people
  • cancer
  • older
  • resilience
  • research
  • chronic illness


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