During midlife, adults often experience the convergence of multiple life transitions and stressful events – from taking care of teenagers and aging parents, to health issues and planning for retirement, among others.
The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence® and the MIT AgeLab conducted a study that looked at transitions adults in their 40s, 50s and 60s experience and how they remain resilient. The study was comprised of focus groups, and a survey of adults ages 40-69, which included the Resilience in Midlife (RIM) scale.1
Resilience is the capacity to positively adjust to difficult life experience and is particularly essential in midlife when we may be adapting to major life changes.
The study found that:
- The most resilient adults have a strong sense of self-efficacy or the belief that they are able to manage through difficult transitions.
- Participating in entertainment activities and hobbies is the most common way that all adults in the study cope with stress. However, the most resilient adults are more likely to participate in physical activity than less resilient adults (70% versus 42%).
- Social connections and support are also common among the most resilient people. Sixty percent of the most resilient adults talk to or spend time with friends as a way to cope with stress, compared with 35% of the less resilient individuals.
- 94% of the most resilient people reported that they are very or somewhat happy, compared with only 32% of the less resilient people in the survey.
- 34% of the most resilient people reported that they are not stressed at all, compared with 6% of the less resilient people in the survey.
- The most common types of stress that people in midlife are currently experiencing are related to finances and expenses (53%), health of yourself or others (40%), and changes related to aging (34%).
Adults in their 60s reported higher levels of resilience, compared with people in their 40s and 50s.2
Building resilience over a lifetime is important. Carving out time to take care of yourself by being physically active and socially connected in the midst of life transitions is an important part of developing resilience.
Three ways to boost your resilience:
- Physical: Be active. Adults in our study who were more resilient reported higher levels of physical activity. Walking was listed as the top activity that resilient people participate in to help cope with stress. Whether it’s taking a walk, exercising, doing yoga or playing sports, being active is associated with resilience.
- Social: Stay connected to your friends and family. The most resilient adults in our study reported higher rates of spending time or talking with friends and family. Are there friends and family you are close to and have important conversations with? Keep those connections strong. Whether it’s talking on the phone, meeting for a meal, or just hanging-out, talk to the people in your network you rely on and who support you.
- Personal: Develop the inner qualities that build resilience. Resilience is comprised of 5 key elements: family and social networks, perseverance, coping, locus of control (belief in your ability to control the situation) and self-efficacy (a belief that you are able to manage through difficult situations). In our research, we found that the most resilient adults reported a high level of self-efficacy. They are confident that they can deal with the stressors they face in the midst of life events.
To learn more about your own resilience, take our quiz.
To learn more about building your resilience, visit the American Psychological Association website.
1 Included in the survey was the 25-question Resilience in Midlife scale, developed by Linda Ryan and Marie L. Caltabiano, as reported in the article, Development of a New Resilience Scale: The Resilience in Midlife Scale (RIM Scale), Asian Social Science, Vol. 5, No. 11, November 2009. Results from the scale were categorized into three levels based on identification of the top 20 percent highest scores and the lowest 20 percent scores.
2 On the RIM Scale, adults in their 60s scored on average a 69 out of 100, whereas adults in their 50s scored on average 66 and adults in their 40s scored on average a 64. The difference in these scores was found to be a statistically significant difference at the 95 percent confidence level.
* Resilience in Midlife Research Methodology: Twelve focus groups (6 in Boston, 6 in Dallas) were conducted by the MIT AgeLab and The Hartford of adults 40-69. Each group had approximately 10 participants, with a total of 119 participants. The groups were segmented by age and gender. All participants were living in the community and currently driving when the focus groups were conducted in January 2014. Lieberman Research conducted an online survey of 1,519 adults age 40-69, stratified by age (40-49, 50-59, 60-69,) across the U.S. for The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab The median survey length was 15 minutes. The survey was fielded between March 28 and April 7, 2014. Included in the survey was the 25-question Resilience in Midlife scale, developed by Linda Ryan and Marie L. Caltabiano, as reported in the article, Development of a New Resilience Scale: The Resilience in Midlife Scale (RIM Scale), Asian Social Science, Vol. 5, No. 11, November 2009.
The information provided is general in nature and intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be an exhaustive source or to relate to a particular person about their resilience or well-being. Readers are advised to consult with appropriate professionals to assist them in understanding their individual situation and needs.