Resilience Can Boost Your Quality of Life Regardless of Your Symptoms

What was this research about?

Living with a condition like spinal cord injury or muscular dystrophy can sometimes be challenging and stressful. Resilience describes how well we bounce back and keep going during stressful times. People with disabilities who are more resilient tend to be happier with their lives and their participation in social activities. They also tend to experience better moods, and lower levels of symptoms like pain and fatigue. In this study, we wanted to find out if the link between resilience and overall happiness held up for people regardless of their moods or physical symptoms.

What did the researchers do?

We surveyed about 1,600 people with either muscular dystrophy (MD), multiple sclerosis (MS), post-polio syndrome (PPS), or spinal cord injury (SCI). In the survey, we asked the respondents how resilient they felt. For example, we asked how much they felt that “having to cope with stress makes me stronger”. The respondents also answered questions about their overall quality of life, and questions about how satisfied they were with their involvement in important activities, like working, doing household chores, or spending time with family and friends. Finally, the respondents told us about their moods and physical symptoms, including experiences with depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue and sleep problems.

What did the researchers find?

We found that respondents who said they were more resilient also reported higher quality of life and were more satisfied with their participation in activities. These links held up even after we accounted for their mood and physical symptoms. This suggests that resilience is helpful even for people with depression, anxiety or more severe physical symptoms.

We also found that the link between resilience and satisfaction with activity participation was stronger for men than it was for women. This result is interesting and warrants more research to find out if men and women think of resilience differently.

How can you use this research?

Resilience helps keep us happy and engaged in life during times of stress. Some steps we can take to build our resilience include:


  • Finding meaning: Make time to participate in activities that have meaning to you, such as hobbies, spiritual activities or volunteering.
  • Building connections: Focus on keeping up important relationships with friends and loved ones.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation is a good way to practice managing your thoughts and feelings.
  • Gratitude: Focus on things you are grateful for, or the ways that stressful experiences might lead to growth. This can help build resilience.

Things you should know:

  • Developing our resilience can help us live satisfying lives despite stressful experiences.
  • People with physical disabilities may have a higher risk of becoming depressed. If you are concerned that you or a loved one might be depressed, take a look at our factsheet on How to Cope with Depression.

Original Research Article:

Battalio SL, Silverman AM, Ehde DM, Amtmann D, Edwards KA, Jensen MP. (2016) Resilience and function in adults with chronic physical disabilities: An observational study. Archives Physical Med and Rehabil. [epub]