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Soc Sci Med. 2009 Jun;68(12):2190-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.03.043. Epub 2009 May 4.

Looking for resilience: understanding the longitudinal trajectories of responses to stress.

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Dartmouth Medical School, Psychiatry/NCPTSD, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, VT 05009, USA.


Taking advantage of two large, population-based, and longitudinal datasets collected after the 1999 floods in Mexico (n=561) and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York (n=1267), we examined the notion that resilience may be best understood and measured as one member of a set of trajectories that may follow exposure to trauma or severe stress. We hypothesized that resistance, resilience, recovery, relapsing/remitting, delayed dysfunction, and chronic dysfunction trajectories were all possible in the aftermath of major disasters. Semi-parametric group-based modeling yielded the strongest evidence for resistance (no or mild and stable symptoms), resilience (initially moderate or severe symptoms followed by a sharp decrease), recovery (initially moderate or severe symptoms followed by a gradual decrease), and chronic dysfunction (moderate or severe and stable symptoms), as these trajectories were prevalent in both samples. Neither Mexico nor New York showed a relapsing/remitting trajectory, and only New York showed a delayed dysfunction trajectory. Understanding patterns of psychological distress over time may present opportunities for interventions that aim to increase resilience, and decrease more adverse trajectories, after mass traumatic events.

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