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1.  Personal Risk and Resilience Factors in the Context of Daily Stress 
This chapter focuses on the role that personal risk and resilience factors play as adults of all ages cope with the stressors encountered in everyday life. Theorists have suggested that researchers should focus on the effects of daily stress and coping rather than focusing exclusively on major life events and chronic stress and have proposed that understanding how adults cope with daily stress is a key aspect of understanding long-term well-being and adaptation in adulthood. After presenting a conceptual model outlining the major components of the daily stress process, the chapter reviews the existing empirical literature on personal risk and resilience factors in the context of daily stress. This research clearly suggests that there is no universal generalization that can be made regarding whether chronological age, in and of itself, confers greater vulnerability or resilience onto adults. Instead, we argue that researchers should ask when and under what conditions is age associated with greater vulnerability to daily stress and when and under what conditions is age associated with greater resilience to daily stress. Age differences in reactivity to daily stress are clearly embedded within a complex system of factors—structural, individual, and situational—that influence stress reactivity and stress recovery in several ways. This complexity should not be taken to mean that stress reactivity and recovery cannot be charted or understood. Researchers, however, will need to approach this complexity with a great deal of theoretical, methodological, and statistical rigor to move our understanding of the importance of age in shaping risk and resilience to daily stress forward. The final section of the chapter outlines several directions for future research in the area of aging and resilience. In particular, we argue that a focus on personal risk and resilience factors in the context of daily stress, in combination with the application of sophisticated statistical methods (e.g., dynamic systems modeling), will contribute to a more dynamic and person-centered understanding of processes of resilience.
PMCID: PMC3462024  PMID: 23049156
2.  Resilience, an Evolving Concept: A Review of Literature Relevant to Aboriginal Research 
Pimatisiwin  2008;6(2):7-23.
Resilience has been most frequently defined as positive adaptation despite adversity. Over the past 40 years, resilience research has gone through several stages. From an initial focus on the invulnerable or invincible child, psychologists began to recognize that much of what seems to promote resilience originates outside of the individual. This led to a search for resilience factors at the individual, family, community — and, most recently, cultural — levels. In addition to the effects that community and culture have on resilience in individuals, there is growing interest in resilience as a feature of entire communities and cultural groups. Contemporary researchers have found that resilience factors vary in different risk contexts and this has contributed to the notion that resilience is a process. In order to characterize the resilience process in a particular context, it is necessary to identify and measure the risk involved and, in this regard, perceived discrimination and historical trauma are part of the context in many Aboriginal communities. Researchers also seek to understand how particular protective factors interact with risk factors and with other protective factors to support relative resistance. For this purpose they have developed resilience models of three main types: “compensatory,” “protective,” and “challenge” models. Two additional concepts are resilient reintegration, in which a confrontation with adversity leads individuals to a new level of growth, and the notion endorsed by some Aboriginal educators that resilience is an innate quality that needs only to be properly awakened.
The review suggests five areas for future research with an emphasis on youth: 1) studies to improve understanding of what makes some Aboriginal youth respond positively to risk and adversity and others not; 2) case studies providing empirical confirmation of the theory of resilient reintegration among Aboriginal youth; 3) more comparative studies on the role of culture as a resource for resilience; 4) studies to improve understanding of how Aboriginal youth, especially urban youth, who do not live in self-governed communities with strong cultural continuity can be helped to become, or remain, resilient; and 5) greater involvement of Aboriginal researchers who can bring a nonlinear world view to resilience research.
PMCID: PMC2956753  PMID: 20963184 CAMSID: cams387
3.  Annual Research Review: Positive adjustment to adversity -Trajectories of minimal-impact resilience and emergent resilience 
Research on resilience in the aftermath of potentially traumatic life events is still evolving. For decades researchers have documented resilience in children exposed to corrosive early environments, such as poverty or chronic maltreatment. Relatively more recently the study of resilience has migrated to the investigation of isolated and potentially traumatic life events (PTE) in adults.
In this article we first consider some of the key differences in the conceptualization of resilience following chronic adversity versus resilience following single-incident traumas, and then describe some of the misunderstandings that have developed about these constructs. To organize our discussion we introduce the terms emergent resilience and minimal-impact resilience to represent trajectories positive adjustment in these two domains, respectively.
We focused in particular on minimal-impact resilience, and reviewed recent advances in statistical modeling of latent trajectories that have informed the most recent research on minimal-impact resilience in both children and adults and the variables that predict it, including demographic variables, exposure, past and current stressors, resources, personality, positive emotion, coping and appraisal, and flexibility in coping and emotion regulation.
The research on minimal impact resilience is nascent. Further research is warranted with implications for a multiple levels of analysis approach to elucidate the processes that may mitigate or modify the impact of a PTE at different developmental stages.
PMCID: PMC3606676  PMID: 23215790
emergent resilience; minimal-impact resilience; traumatic events; latent growth mixture modeling (LGMM)
4.  A Review of Developmental Research on Resilience in Maltreated Children 
Trauma, violence & abuse  2013;14(3):222-234.
Research demonstrates that child maltreatment can negatively impact the psychosocial functioning of individuals well beyond the point at which the trauma occurs. Fortunately, there is evidence that many children who are maltreated succeed in overcoming some of the possible consequences that can follow exposure to this particular form of adversity. Those who do are thought to be resilient. What it means to be resilient is an issue that researchers sometimes disagree on, as is reflected by the different definitions they apply to the term and the methods they use to study the phenomenon. In this literature review, we synthesize current findings on resilience and identify areas of congruence, as well as inconsistency in research methods across the reviewed studies. We focus the review exclusively on longitudinal studies to understand the dynamic qualities of resilience. Findings of the review suggests that, while studies appear to conceptualize and measure common domains of resilience (e.g. social, emotional, behavioral functioning), the measures themselves are in some cases notably different, limiting the extent to which results can be systemically compared across studies. The review also shows that few studies, although longitudinal by design, examine resilience over extended periods of development. Consequently, little has actually been learned about how patterns of resilience unfold and are sustained. Of those studies that do examine resilience as a developmental process, the rate of stability in resilience across time is notably low. Implications for future research are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3760332  PMID: 23666947
resilience; child maltreatment; longitudinal; literature review
5.  Vulnerability as a Function of Individual and Group Resources in Cumulative Risk Assessment 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2007;115(5):817-824.
The field of risk assessment has focused on protecting the health of individual people or populations of wildlife from single risks, mostly from chemical exposure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently began to address multiple risks to communities in the “Framework for Cumulative Risk Assessment” [EPA/630/P02/001F. Washington DC:Risk Assessment Forum, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2003)].
Simultaneously, several reports concluded that some individuals and groups are more vulnerable to environmental risks than the general population. However, vulnerability has received little specific attention in the risk assessment literature.
Our objective is to examine the issue of vulnerability in cumulative risk assessment and present a conceptual framework rather than a comprehensive review of the literature. In this article we consider similarities between ecologic and human communities and the factors that make communities vulnerable to environmental risks.
The literature provides substantial evidence on single environmental factors and simple conditions that increase vulnerability or reduce resilience for humans and ecologic systems. This observation is especially true for individual people and populations of wildlife. Little research directly addresses the topic of vulnerability in cumulative risk situations, especially at the community level. The community level of organization has not been adequately considered as an end point in either human or ecologic risk assessment. Furthermore, current information on human risk does not completely explain the level of response in cumulative risk conditions. Ecologic risk situations are similarly more complex and unpredictable for cases of cumulative risk.
Psychosocial conditions and responses are the principal missing element for humans. We propose a model for including psychologic and social factors as an integral component of cumulative risk assessment.
PMCID: PMC1867984  PMID: 17520073
communities; cumulative risk; environmental justice; public health; vulnerability
6.  HIV, Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, and Sex Work: A Qualitative Study of Intersectional Stigma Experienced by HIV-Positive Women in Ontario, Canada 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001124.
Mona Loutfy and colleagues used focus groups to examine experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
HIV infection rates are increasing among marginalized women in Ontario, Canada. HIV-related stigma, a principal factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic, interacts with structural inequities such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. The study objective was to explore experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a community-based qualitative investigation using focus groups to understand experiences of stigma and discrimination and coping methods among HIV-positive women from marginalized communities. We conducted 15 focus groups with HIV-positive women in five cities across Ontario, Canada. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis to enhance understanding of the lived experiences of diverse HIV-positive women. Focus group participants (n = 104; mean age = 38 years; 69% ethnic minority; 23% lesbian/bisexual; 22% transgender) described stigma/discrimination and coping across micro (intra/interpersonal), meso (social/community), and macro (organizational/political) realms. Participants across focus groups attributed experiences of stigma and discrimination to: HIV-related stigma, sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work. Coping strategies included resilience (micro), social networks and support groups (meso), and challenging stigma (macro).
HIV-positive women described interdependent and mutually constitutive relationships between marginalized social identities and inequities such as HIV-related stigma, sexism, racism, and homo/transphobia. These overlapping, multilevel forms of stigma and discrimination are representative of an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination. The present findings also suggest that micro, meso, and macro level factors simultaneously present barriers to health and well being—as well as opportunities for coping—in HIV-positive women's lives. Understanding the deleterious effects of stigma and discrimination on HIV risk, mental health, and access to care among HIV-positive women can inform health care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public health policy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
HIV-related stigma and discrimination—prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV—is a major factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic. HIV-related stigma, which devalues and stereotypes people living with HIV, increases vulnerability to HIV infection by reducing access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and support. At the personal (micro) level, HIV-related stigma can make it hard for people to take tests to determine their HIV status or to tell other people that they are HIV positive. At the social/community (meso) level, it can mean that HIV-positive people are ostracized from their communities. At the organizational/political (macro) level, it can mean that health-care workers treat HIV-positive people differently and that governments are deterred from taking fast, effective action against the HIV epidemic. In addition, HIV-related stigma is negatively associated with well-being among people living with HIV. Thus, among HIV-positive people, those who have experienced HIV-related stigma have higher levels of mental and physical illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Racism (oppression and inequity founded on ethno-racial differences), sexism and gender discrimination (oppression and inequity based on gender bias in attitudes), and homophobia and transphobia (discrimination, fear, hostility, and violence towards nonheterosexual and transgender people, respectively) can also affect access to HIV services. However, little is known about how these different forms of stigma and discrimination interact (intersect). A better understanding of the effect of intersecting stigmas on people living with HIV could help in the development of stigma reduction interventions and HIV prevention, treatment and care programs, and could help to control global HIV infection rates. In this qualitative study (an analysis of people's attitudes and experiences rather than numerical data), the researchers investigate the intersection of HIV-related stigma, racism, sexism and gender discrimination, homophobia and transphobia among marginalized HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada. As elsewhere in the world, HIV infection rates are increasing among women in Canada. Nearly 25% of people living with HIV in Canada are women and about a quarter of all new infections are in women. Moreover, there is a disproportionately high infection rate among marginalized women in Canada such as sex workers and lesbian, bisexual, and queer women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers held 15 focus groups with 104 marginalized HIV-positive women who were recruited by word-of-mouth and through flyers circulated in community agencies serving women of diverse ethno-cultural origins. Each focus group explored topics that included challenges in daily life, medical issues and needs, and issues that were silenced within the participants' communities. The researchers analyzed the data from these focus groups using thematic analysis, an approach that identifies, analyzes, and reports themes in qualitative data. They found that women living with HIV in Ontario experienced multiple types of stigma at different levels. So, for example, women experienced HIV-related stigma at the micro (“If you're HIV-positive, you feel shameful”), meso (“The thing I hate most for people that test positive for HIV is that society ostracizes them”), and macro (“A lot of women are not getting employed because they have to disclose their status”) levels. The women also attributed their experiences of stigma and discrimination to sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work at all three levels and described coping strategies at the micro (resilience; “I always live with hope”), meso (participation in social networks), and macro (challenging stigma) levels.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that marginalized HIV-positive women living in Ontario experience overlapping forms of stigma and discrimination and that these forms of stigma operate over micro, meso, and macro levels, as do the coping strategies adopted by the women. Together, these results support an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination that should help to inform discussions about the complexity of stigma and coping strategies. However, because only a small sample of nonrandomly selected women was involved in this study, these findings need to be confirmed in other groups of HIV-positive women. If confirmed, the complex system of interplay of different forms of stigma revealed here should help to inform health-care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public-health policy, and could, ultimately, help to bring the global HIV epidemic under control.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment; its publication HIV and stigma deals with HIV-related stigma in the UK
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV, and AIDS, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV/AIDS statistics for Canada (in English and Spanish)
The People Living with Stigma Index to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma; its website will soon include a selection of individual stories about HIV-related stigma
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3222645  PMID: 22131907
7.  A Whole Community Approach toward Child and Youth Resilience Promotion: A Review of Resilience Literature 
A literature review of child and youth resilience with a focus on: definitions and factors of resilience; relationships between resilience, mental health and social outcomes; evidence for resilience promoting interventions; and implications for reducing health inequities. To conduct the review, the first two following steps were conducted iteratively and informed the third step: 1) Review of published peer-review literature since 2000; and 2) Review of grey literature; and 3) Quasi-realist synthesis of evidence. Evidence from three perspectives were examined: i) whether interventions can improve ‘resilience’ for vulnerable children and youth; ii) whether there is a differential effect among different populations; and, iii) whether there is evidence that resilience interventions ‘close the gap’ on health and social outcome measures. Definitions of resilience vary as do perspectives on it. We argue for a hybrid approach that recognizes the value of combining multiple theoretical perspectives, epistemologies (positivistic and constructivist/interpretive/critical) in studying resilience. Resilience is: a) a process (rather than a single event), b) a continuum (rather than a binary outcome), and c) likely a global concept with specific dimensions. Individual, family and social environmental factors influence resilience. A social determinants perspective on resilience and mental health is emphasized. Programs and interventions to promoting resilience should be complimentary to public health measures addressing the social determinants of health. A whole community approach to resilience is suggested as a step toward closing the public health policy gap. Local initiatives that stimulate a local transformation process are needed. Recognition of each child’s or youth’s intersections of gender, lifestage, family resources within the context of their identity markers fits with a localized approach to resilience promotion and, at the same time, requires recognition of the broader determinants of population health.
PMCID: PMC3913859  PMID: 24523668
Resilience; Child; Youth; Mental Health Promotion; Social Determinants of Health; Health Equity; Literature Review
8.  “I know it when I see it.” The complexities of measuring resilience among parents of children with cancer 
Promoting parent resilience may provide an opportunity to improve family-level survivorship after pediatric cancer; however, measuring resilience is challenging.
The “Understanding Resilience in Parents of Children with Cancer” was a cross-sectional, mixed-methods study of bereaved and non-bereaved parents. Surveys included the Connor-Davidson Resilience scale, the Kessler-6 psychological distress scale, the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory, and an open-ended question regarding the on-going impact of cancer. We conducted content analyses of open-ended responses and categorized our impressions as “resilient,” “not resilient,” or “unable to determine.” “Resilience” was determined based on evidence of psychological growth, lack of distress, and parent-reported meaning/purpose. We compared consensus-impressions with instrument scores to examine alignment. Analyses were stratified by bereavement status.
Eighty-four (88%) non-bereaved, and 21 (88%) bereaved parents provided written responses. Among non-bereaved, 53 (63%) were considered resilient, 15 (18%) were not. Among bereaved, 11 (52%) were deemed resilient, 5 (24%) were not. All others suggested a mixed or incomplete picture. Rater-determined “resilient” parents tended to have higher personal resources and lower psychological distress (p=<0.001–0.01). Non-bereaved “resilient” parents also had higher post-traumatic growth (p=0.02). Person-level analyses demonstrated that only 50–62% of parents had all 3 instrument scores aligned with our impressions of resilience.
Despite multiple theories, measuring resilience is challenging. Our clinical impressions of resilience were aligned in 100% of cases; however, instruments measuring potential markers of resilience were aligned in approximately half. Promoting resilience therefore requires understanding of multiple factors, including person-level perspectives, individual resources, processes of adaptation and emotional well-being.
PMCID: PMC4264630  PMID: 24756554
Cancer; Oncology; Pediatrics; Parents; Resilience; Psychosocial Outcomes
9.  A systematic review of resilience and mental health outcomes of conflict-driven adult forced migrants 
Conflict and Health  2014;8:13.
The rising global burden of forced migration due to armed conflict is increasingly recognised as an important issue in global health. Forced migrants are at a greater risk of developing mental disorders. However, resilience, defined as the ability of a person to successfully adapt to or recover from stressful and traumatic experiences, has been highlighted as a key potential protective factor. This study aimed to review systematically the global literature on the impact of resilience on the mental health of adult conflict-driven forced migrants.
Both quantitative and qualitative studies that reported resilience and mental health outcomes among forcibly displaced persons (aged 18+) by way of exploring associations, links, pathways and causative mechanisms were included. Fourteen bibliographic databases and seven humanitarian study databases/websites were searched and a four stage screening process was followed.
Twenty three studies were included in the final review. Ten qualitative studies identified highlighted family and community cohesion, family and community support, individual personal qualities, collective identity, supportive primary relationships and religion. Thirteen quantitative studies were identified, but only two attempted to link resilience with mental disorders, and three used a specific resilience measure. Over-reliance on cross-sectional designs was noted. Resilience was generally shown to be associated with better mental health in displaced populations, but the evidence on this and underlying mechanisms was limited.
The review highlights the need for more epidemiological and qualitative evidence on resilience in forcibly displaced persons as a potential avenue for intervention development, particularly in resource-poor settings.
PMCID: PMC4149800  PMID: 25177360
Mental health; Forced migration; Adult resilience
10.  Resilience: Building immunity in psychiatry 
Indian Journal of Psychiatry  2013;55(3):224-234.
The challenges in our personal, professional, financial, and emotional world are on rise, more so in developing countries and people will be longing for mental wellness for achieving complete health in their life. Resilience stands for one's capacity to recover from extremes of trauma and stress. Resilience in a person reflects a dynamic union of factors that encourages positive adaptation despite exposure to adverse life experiences. One needs to have a three-dimensional construct for understanding resilience as a state (what is it and how does one identify it?), a condition (what can be done about it?), and a practice (how does one get there?). Evaluating the level of resilience requires the measurement of internal (personal) and external (environmental) factors, taking into account that family and social environment variables of resilience play very important roles in an individual's resilience. Protection factors seem to be more important in the development of resilience than risk factors. Resilience is a process that lasts a lifetime, with periods of acquisition and maintenance, and reduction and loss for assessment. Overall, currently available data on resilience suggest the presence of a neurobiological substrate, based largely on genetics, which correlates with personality traits, some of which are configured via social learning. The major questions about resilience revolve around properly defining the concept, identifying the factors involved in its development and recognizing whether it is actually possible to immunize mental health against adversities. In the clinical field, it may be possible to identify predisposing factors or risk factors for psychopathologies and to develop new intervention strategies, both preventive and therapeutic, based on the concept of resilience. The preferred environments for application of resilience are health, education, and social policy and the right approach in integrating; it can be developed only with more research and analysis with focus on resilience. Be it patient or family member or caregiver, advocating resilience will empower psychiatrists in India.
PMCID: PMC3777343  PMID: 24082242
Clinical application; environment; neurobiology; protective factors; resilience; risk factors
11.  The mental health of children affected by armed conflict: Protective processes and pathways to resilience 
This paper examines the concept of resilience in the context of children affected by armed conflict. Resilience has been frequently viewed as a unique quality of certain ‘invulnerable’ children. In contrast, this paper argues that a number of protective processes contribute to resilient mental health outcomes in children when considered through the lens of the child's social ecology. While available research has made important contributions to understanding risk factors for negative mental health consequences of war-related violence and loss, the focus on trauma alone has resulted in inadequate attention to factors associated with resilient mental health outcomes. This paper presents key studies in the literature that address the interplay between risk and protective processes in the mental health of war-affected children from an ecological, developmental perspective. It suggests that further research on war-affected children should pay particular attention to coping and meaning making at the individual level; the role of attachment relationships, caregiver health, resources and connection in the family, and social support available in peer and extended social networks. Cultural and community influences such as attitudes towards mental health and healing as well as the meaning given to the experience of war itself are also important aspects of the larger social ecology.
PMCID: PMC2613765  PMID: 18569183
12.  The Biological Residue of Childhood Poverty 
Children raised in poverty are prone to physical health problems late in life. To understand these findings and address the scientific challenge they represent, we must formulate integrative conceptual frameworks at the crossroads of behavioral and biomedical science, with a strong developmental emphasis. In this article, we outline such a framework and discuss research bearing on its validity. We address how childhood poverty gets under the skin, at the level of tissues and organs, in a manner that affects later disease risks. We also tackle questions about resilience; Even with lengthy exposure to childhood poverty, why do only a subset of people acquire diseases? Why are some individuals protected while others remain vulnerable? Maternal nurturance might be a source of resilience, buffering children from the long-term health consequences of poverty. We conclude with research priorities.
PMCID: PMC3766848  PMID: 24032051
13.  Stress and Mental Health in Families With Different Income Levels: A Strategy to Collect Multi-Actor Data 
JMIR Research Protocols  2014;3(1):e1.
Several studies have focused on family stress processes, examining the association between various sources of stress and the mental health and well-being of parents and adolescents. The majority of these studies take the individual as the unit of analysis. Multi-actor panel data make it possible to examine the dynamics of the family context over time and the differentiating effects of individual roles within the same family. Accurate information about family processes allows practitioners to provide support that enhances family resilience and minimizes the risk of mental health problems.
Our study contributes to the research on family stress processes by focusing on families with different income levels, and by collecting panel data from mothers, fathers, and adolescents within the same family.
The relationship between mothers, fathers, and children (RMFC) study is an ongoing Flemish multi-actor panel study that aims to enhance our understanding of family processes that protect the mental health and well-being of two-parent families with a target adolescent between 11 and 17 years old. Mothers, fathers, and children provide information about various aspects of family life, including finances, sources of stress, health, mental health, parenting, and coping strategies. Measures have been chosen whenever possible that have sound conceptual underpinnings and robust psychometric properties. The study posed two challenges. First, economically disadvantaged families are difficult to reach. Second, the collection of multi-actor data is often plagued by high nonresponse. To ensure that the families were targeted as successfully as possible, the study employed a purposive nonprobability sampling method.
The RMFC study is one of the largest triadic panel studies of its kind. The first wave of quantitative data collection was conducted between February 2012 and January 2013. A total of 2566 individuals of 880 families participated in our study. The second wave of data collection will be undertaken 6-12 months later.
The strength of the RMFC study is its multi-actor panel approach of data collection among families with different income levels. Strategies that were followed to address the empirical issues involved with the sampling design are discussed, together with theoretical and practical implications.
PMCID: PMC3913930  PMID: 24384456
stress; mental health; well-being; family process; multi-actor approach
14.  Distress Tolerance and Psychopathological Symptoms and Disorders: A Review of the Empirical Literature among Adults 
Psychological bulletin  2010;136(4):576-600.
In the present paper, we review theory and empirical study of distress tolerance, an emerging risk factor candidate for various forms of psychopathology. Despite the long-standing interest in, and promise of work on, distress tolerance for understanding adult psychopathology, there has not been a comprehensive review of the extant empirical literature focused on the construct. As a result, a comprehensive synthesis of theoretical and empirical scholarship on distress tolerance including integration of extant research on the relations between distress tolerance and psychopathology is lacking. Inspection of the scientific literature indicates that there are a number of promising ways to conceptualize and measure distress tolerance, as well as documented relations between distress tolerance factor(s) and psychopathological symptoms and disorders. Although promising, there also is notable conceptual and operational heterogeneity across the distress tolerance literature(s). Moreoever, a number of basic questions remain unanswered regarding the associations between distress tolerance and other risk and protective factors and processes, as well as its putative role(s) in vulnerability for, and resilience to, psychopathology. Thus, the current paper provides a comprehensive review of past and contemporary theory and research and proposes key areas for future empirical study of this construct.
PMCID: PMC2891552  PMID: 20565169
Distress tolerance; Psychopathology; Negative Mood; Mechanism; Regulation
15.  Annotation: Methodological and Conceptual Issues in Research on Childhood Resilience 
Recent advances in research on childhood resilience have yielded valuable insights on protective processes in adjustment. At the same time, however, as with any growing discipline, the rapid accrual of data has led to the identification of additional important questions, many of which are currently inadequately resolved. The focus of this paper is on salient methodological and conceptual issues that merit further scrutiny in research on resilience. The discussion focuses in turn on definitions of competence, measurement of risk, terminology used to describe protective mechanisms, main effect and interaction effect models of resilience, and processes underlying “buffering” or “moderating” effects.
PMCID: PMC4269552  PMID: 8509489
Resilience; social competence; risk
16.  Mental Health and Resilience in HIV/AIDS-Affected Children: A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for Future Research 
To date, research on mental health in HIV-affected children (children who have an HIV-positive caregiver or live with the virus themselves) has focused on risk factors associated with the disease. However, simultaneous identification of factors that contribute to resilience in the face of risks is also needed. A greater understanding of modifiable protective processes that contribute to resilience in the mental health of children affected by HIV can inform the design of interventions that bolster naturally-occurring supports and contribute to early prevention or better management of risks.
We reviewed the recent literature on mental health and resilience in children and adolescents affected by HIV/AIDS. Literature searches of PsycInfo and PubMed were conducted during July-December 2011 consistent with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) standards. Qualitative and quantitative studies were included for review if primary research questions pertained to mental health and coping or protective processes in children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. All studies subject to full review were evaluated for quality using a modified Systematic Assessment of Quality in Observational Research (SAQOR) rating system.
171 unique studies were returned from online searches of the literature and bibliography mining. Of these, 29 were evaluated as pertaining directly to mental health and resilience in families and children living with HIV/AIDS. Eight studies presented qualitative analyses. Ten quantitative studies examined individual resources contributing to child resilience and four quantitative studies looked at family-level resources. Ten studies also investigated community-level interactions. Four presented findings from resilience-focused interventions.
There is a clear need for rigorous research on mental health and resilience in HIV-affected children and adolescents. The evidence base would greatly benefit from more standardized and robust approaches to thinking about resilience from an ecological perspective inclusive of resources at multiple levels and their interactions.
PMCID: PMC3656822  PMID: 22943414
HIV/AIDS; Children; Families; Resilience; Mental Health
17.  The Construct of Resilience: A Critical Evaluation and Guidelines for Future Work 
Child development  2000;71(3):543-562.
This paper presents a critical appraisal of resilience, a construct connoting the maintenance of positive adaptation by individuals despite experiences of significant adversity. As empirical research on resilience has burgeoned in recent years, criticisms have been levied at work in this area. These critiques have generally focused on ambiguities in definitions and central terminology; heterogeneity in risks experienced and competence achieved by individuals viewed as resilient; instability of the phenomenon of resilience; and concerns regarding the usefulness of resilience as a theoretical construct. We address each identified criticism in turn, proposing solutions for those we view as legitimate and clarifying misunderstandings surrounding those we believe to be less valid. We conclude that work on resilience possesses substantial potential for augmenting the understanding of processes affecting at-risk individuals. Realization of the potential embodied by this construct, however, will remain constrained without continued scientific attention to some of the serious conceptual and methodological pitfalls that have been noted by skeptics and proponents alike.
PMCID: PMC1885202  PMID: 10953923
18.  Family conflict, autonomic nervous system functioning, and child adaptation: State of the science and future directions 
Development and psychopathology  2011;23(2):703-721.
The family is one of the primary contexts of child development. Marital and parent–child conflict (family conflict) are common and predict a wide range of negative behavioral and emotional outcomes in children. Thus, an important task for developmental researchers is to identify the processes through which family conflict contributes to children's psychological maladjustment, as well as vulnerability and protective factors in the context of family conflict. In the current paper, we aim to advance a conceptual model that focuses on indices of children's autonomic nervous system (ANS) functioning that increase vulnerability or provide protection against psychological maladjustment in the context of family conflict. In doing so, we provide a selective review that reflects the state of the science linking family conflict, children's ANS activity, and child psychological adjustment, and offer directions and guidance for future research. Our hope is to accelerate research at the intersection of family conflict and ANS functioning to advance understanding of risk and resilience among children.
PMCID: PMC3695441  PMID: 23786705
19.  A methodological review of resilience measurement scales 
The evaluation of interventions and policies designed to promote resilience, and research to understand the determinants and associations, require reliable and valid measures to ensure data quality. This paper systematically reviews the psychometric rigour of resilience measurement scales developed for use in general and clinical populations.
Eight electronic abstract databases and the internet were searched and reference lists of all identified papers were hand searched. The focus was to identify peer reviewed journal articles where resilience was a key focus and/or is assessed. Two authors independently extracted data and performed a quality assessment of the scale psychometric properties.
Nineteen resilience measures were reviewed; four of these were refinements of the original measure. All the measures had some missing information regarding the psychometric properties. Overall, the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, the Resilience Scale for Adults and the Brief Resilience Scale received the best psychometric ratings. The conceptual and theoretical adequacy of a number of the scales was questionable.
We found no current 'gold standard' amongst 15 measures of resilience. A number of the scales are in the early stages of development, and all require further validation work. Given increasing interest in resilience from major international funders, key policy makers and practice, researchers are urged to report relevant validation statistics when using the measures.
PMCID: PMC3042897  PMID: 21294858
20.  Vaccinating to Protect a Vulnerable Subpopulation 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(5):e174.
Epidemic influenza causes serious mortality and morbidity in temperate countries each winter. Research suggests that schoolchildren are critical in the spread of influenza virus, while the elderly and the very young are most vulnerable to the disease. Under these conditions, it is unclear how best to focus prevention efforts in order to protect the population. Here we investigate the question of how to protect a population against a disease when one group is particularly effective at spreading disease and another group is more vulnerable to the effects of the disease.
Methods and Findings
We developed a simple mathematical model of an epidemic that includes assortative mixing between groups of hosts. We evaluate the impact of different vaccine allocation strategies across a wide range of parameter values. With this model we demonstrate that the optimal vaccination strategy is extremely sensitive to the assortativity of population mixing, as well as to the reproductive number of the disease in each group. Small differences in parameter values can change the best vaccination strategy from one focused on the most vulnerable individuals to one focused on the most transmissive individuals.
Given the limited amount of information about relevant parameters, we suggest that changes in vaccination strategy, while potentially promising, should be approached with caution. In particular, we find that, while switching vaccine to more active groups may protect vulnerable groups in many cases, switching too much vaccine, or switching vaccine under slightly different conditions, may lead to large increases in disease in the vulnerable group. This outcome is more likely when vaccine limitation is stringent, when mixing is highly structured, or when transmission levels are high.
Jonathan Dushoff and colleagues model the benefits of different vaccination strategies and suggest that small differences in how populations mix can change the best vaccination strategy from one focused on the most vulnerable individuals to one focused on the most transmissive individuals.
Editors' Summary
Every winter, millions of people take to their beds with influenza—a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways that is transmitted in airborne droplets released by coughing and sneezing. Most people who catch flu recover within a few days, but some develop serious complications such as pneumonia, and in the US alone, about 36,000 people—mainly infants, elderly, and chronically ill individuals—die every year. To minimize the morbidity (illness) and mortality (death) associated with seasonal (epidemic) influenza, the World Health Organization recommends that these vulnerable people be vaccinated against influenza every autumn. Annual vaccination is necessary because flu viruses continually make small changes to the viral proteins that the immune system recognizes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although infants and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to influenza, schoolchildren are more likely to spread the flu virus. Also, vaccination is more effective in schoolchildren than in elderly people. So could vaccination of schoolchildren be the best way to reduce influenza morbidity and mortality? Some Japanese and US data suggest that it might be, but policymakers need to know more about the likely effects of changing the current influenza vaccination strategy. They need to know in what circumstances the direct effects of vaccination (protection of vaccinated individuals from disease) outweigh its indirect effects (reduced infection in vulnerable individuals caused by the reduced spread of disease in the whole population) and when the opposite is true. In this study, the researchers have used mathematical modeling to investigate how vaccination affects the spread of diseases such as influenza for which a “core” group in the population spreads the disease and a distinct “vulnerable” group is sensitive to its effects.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a mathematical model in which members of each group mixed mainly with their own group (assortative mixing) and used it to predict how changing the proportion of a limited amount of vaccine given to each group might affect disease spread under different conditions. For example, they report that in a population in which the two groups were very unlikely to mix and viral transmission was low, switching vaccine from the vulnerable group to the core group initially increased infections in the vulnerable group because fewer individuals were directly protected but, as more vaccine was allocated to the core group, fewer vulnerable people became infected because the size of the epidemic decreased. When viral transmission was high, vaccination of the vulnerable group was always best. However, when viral transmission was moderate, shifting vaccine from the vulnerable group first increased, then decreased infections in this group before increasing them again. This last change occurred when vaccination in the vulnerable group was so low that viral transmission was sufficient to maintain the epidemic within this group.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all mathematical modeling, the researchers' findings depend on the assumptions included in the model, many of which are based on limited information. The model also considers a population that contains only two groups, an unlikely situation in real life. Nevertheless, these findings indicate that in a population in which one group of people is mainly responsible for the spread of a disease and another is most vulnerable to its effects, the best vaccination strategy is very sensitive to how the groups mix and how well the disease spreads in each group. Small changes in these poorly understood parameters can change the optimal vaccination strategy from one that vaccinates vulnerable individuals to one that mainly vaccinates the people who spread the disease. Importantly, a beneficial change in strategy can become deleterious if taken too far, so policy makers need to approach potentially promising changes in vaccination policy cautiously. Finally, for influenza, the model supports the idea that using some vaccine stocks in schoolchildren might decrease morbidity and mortality among elderly people but suggests that—even if this turns out to be correct—if all the vaccine were given to schoolchildren, more old people might die. Thus, the most prudent policy would be to supplement rather than replace vaccination of the elderly with vaccination of children.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information about influenza for patients and professionals, including key facts about the flu vaccine (in English and Spanish)
World Health Organization, fact sheet on influenza and information on vaccination (in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese and Russian)
UK Health Protection Agency, information on seasonal influenza
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on influenza and the influenza vaccine (in English and Spanish)
Public disease mortality and morbidity data at the International Infectious Disease Data Archive (IIDDA)
PMCID: PMC1872043  PMID: 17518515
21.  Understanding integrated care pathways in palliative care using realist evaluation: a mixed methods study protocol 
BMJ Open  2012;2(4):e001533.
Policy- and evidence-based guidelines have highlighted the need for improved palliative and end-of-life care. However, there is still evidence of individuals dying undignified deaths with little pain control, therefore inflicting unnecessary suffering. New commissioning powers have enabled a 2-year pilot of an innovative integrated care pathway (ICP) designed to improve arrangements for individuals with life-limiting illnesses requiring palliative care. A novel feature of the ICP is its focus on palliative care over the last 6 months of life, aiming to intervene early to prepare for and ensure a good death. What is not known is if this pathway works, how it works and who it works for.
Methods and analysis
A realist evaluation and a complex analytical framework will investigate and discover context, mechanism and outcome conjectures and configurations of the ICP and thus facilitate exploration of how it works and who it works for. A mixed methods approach will be used with small sample sizes to capture the breadth of the ICP. Phase 1 will identify if the pathway works through analysis of NHS Morbidity Information Query and Export Syntax data, locality Death Audit data and the Quality of Dying and Death Questionnaire. Phase 2 employs soft systems methodology with data from focus groups with health professionals to identify how the pathway works. Phase 3 uses the Miller Behavioural Style Scale and interviews with palliative care patients and bereaved relatives to analyse communication in palliative care.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethical approval has been granted from the NHS local ethics committee (REC reference number: 11/NE/0318). Research & Development approval has been gained from four different trusts, and relevant voluntary organisations and the local council have been informed about the research. This protocol illustrates the complexity inherent in evaluating a palliative care ICP. Identification of whether the pathway works, how it works and who it works for will be beneficial to all practices and other care providers involved as it will give objective data on the impact of the ICP. Results will be disseminated throughout the study for continuous quality improvement of the ICP. Outcomes from each data collection phase will be disseminated separately if analysis warrants it; all data collection will be utilised in the realist evaluation. The research provides a potential for the dissemination of the pathway to other localities through the transferable knowledge it will generate, from its focus on the contexts that are crucial for successful implementation, the mechanisms that facilitate implementation and the outcomes achieved.
Article summary
Article focus
This article is a protocol of a realist evaluation of a palliative care ICP, which was developed in Primary Care by health practitioners. The ICP itself uses elements of long-term chronic illness care in order to provide holistic, supportive, high-quality palliative care. The focus of the article is to detail how the ICP will be evaluated, using a variety of data collection tools, which will identify contexts and mechanisms that lead to improved outcomes, thus taking the main focus away from just the outcomes alone. The identification of contexts and mechanisms for improved outcomes is known as realist evaluation and will provide a better knowledge of the essential conditions of effectiveness when the ICP is implemented in other localities.
Key messages
The key aim of this article is to detail the creation of a complex realist evaluation, which utilises a unique and varied methodological framework. It is hoped that through this article, others will understand the groundwork needed to set up and execute a realist evaluation.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The protocol details a complex evaluation of a unique palliative care ICP using a new and innovative methodology: realist evaluation.
Some may perceive the small sample sizes in the qualitative sections of the study as a weakness. However, the aim of the study is not to find a robust causal mechanism; this would be premature with an ICP in its infancy. The aim is to unpack the contexts and mechanisms that work in certain circumstances, from this conditions crucial for effectiveness can be highlighted, which are essential for implementation of the ICP in other localities.
The ICP involves 15 general practitioner practices, which collectively care for 80 300 patients. The study described will use Morbidity Information Query and Export Syntax and Death Audit data from all 15 practices and will conduct the other sections of research within selected practices, both rural and suburban.
Finally, palliative care is commonly misunderstood in the literature and in the field. This paper addresses this confusion and fills a gap in the literature.
PMCID: PMC3391371  PMID: 22761292
22.  Association of Secondhand Smoke Exposure with Pediatric Invasive Bacterial Disease and Bacterial Carriage: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000374.
Majid Ezzati and colleagues report the findings of a systematic review and meta-analysis that probes the association between environmental exposure to secondhand smoke and the epidemiology of pediatric invasive bacterial disease.
A number of epidemiologic studies have observed an association between secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure and pediatric invasive bacterial disease (IBD) but the evidence has not been systematically reviewed. We carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of SHS exposure and two outcomes, IBD and pharyngeal carriage of bacteria, for Neisseria meningitidis (N. meningitidis), Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), and Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae).
Methods and Findings
Two independent reviewers searched Medline, EMBASE, and selected other databases, and screened articles for inclusion and exclusion criteria. We identified 30 case-control studies on SHS and IBD, and 12 cross-sectional studies on SHS and bacterial carriage. Weighted summary odd ratios (ORs) were calculated for each outcome and for studies with specific design and quality characteristics. Tests for heterogeneity and publication bias were performed. Compared with those unexposed to SHS, summary OR for SHS exposure was 2.02 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.52–2.69) for invasive meningococcal disease, 1.21 (95% CI 0.69–2.14) for invasive pneumococcal disease, and 1.22 (95% CI 0.93–1.62) for invasive Hib disease. For pharyngeal carriage, summary OR was 1.68 (95% CI, 1.19–2.36) for N. meningitidis, 1.66 (95% CI 1.33–2.07) for S. pneumoniae, and 0.96 (95% CI 0.48–1.95) for Hib. The association between SHS exposure and invasive meningococcal and Hib diseases was consistent regardless of outcome definitions, age groups, study designs, and publication year. The effect estimates were larger in studies among children younger than 6 years of age for all three IBDs, and in studies with the more rigorous laboratory-confirmed diagnosis for invasive meningococcal disease (summary OR 3.24; 95% CI 1.72–6.13).
When considered together with evidence from direct smoking and biological mechanisms, our systematic review and meta-analysis indicates that SHS exposure may be associated with invasive meningococcal disease. The epidemiologic evidence is currently insufficient to show an association between SHS and invasive Hib disease or pneumococcal disease. Because the burden of IBD is highest in developing countries where SHS is increasing, there is a need for high-quality studies to confirm these results, and for interventions to reduce exposure of children to SHS.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The deleterious health effects of smoking on smokers are well established, but smoking also seriously damages the health of nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke (SHS), which is released by burning cigarettes and exhaled by smokers, contains hundreds of toxic chemicals that increase the risk of adults developing lung cancer and heart disease. Children, however, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of SHS exposure (also known as passive smoking) because they are still developing physically. In addition, children have little control over their indoor environment and thus can be heavily exposed to SHS. Exposure to SHS increases the risk of ear infections, asthma, respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, and breathlessness), and lung infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis in young children and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome during the first year of life.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several studies have also shown an association between SHS exposure (which damages the lining of the mouth, throat, and lungs and decreases immune defenses) and potentially fatal invasive bacterial disease (IBD) in children. In IBD, bacteria invade the body and grow in normally sterile sites such as the blood (bacteremia) and the covering of the brain (meningitis). Three organisms are mainly responsible for IBD in children—Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), and Neisseria meningitidis. In 2000, S. pneumonia (pneumococcal disease) alone killed nearly one million children. Here, the researchers undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between SHS exposure in children and two outcomes—IBD and the presence of IBD-causing organisms in the nose and throat (bacterial carriage). A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; meta-analysis is a statistical method that combines the results of several studies. By combining data, it is possible to get a clearer view of the causes of a disease than is possible from individual studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 30 case-control studies that compared the occurrence of IBD over time in children exposed to SHS with its occurrence in children not exposed to SHS. They also identified 12 cross-sectional studies that measured bacterial carriage at a single time point in children exposed and not exposed to SHS. The researchers used the data from these studies to calculate a “summary odds ratio” (OR) for each outcome—a measure of how SHS exposure affected the likelihood of each outcome. Compared with children unexposed to SHS, exposure to SHS doubled the likelihood of invasive meningococcal disease (a summary OR for SHS exposure of 2.02). Summary ORs for invasive pneumococcal disease and Hib diseases were 1.21 and 1.22, respectively. However, these small increases in the risk of developing these IBDs were not statistically significant unlike the increase in the risk of developing meningococcal disease. That is, they might have occurred by chance. For bacterial carriage, summary ORs for SHS exposure were 1.68 for N. meningitidis, 1.66 for S. pneumonia (both these ORs were statistically significant), and 0.96 for Hib (a nonsignificant decrease in risk).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that SHS exposure is significantly associated with invasive meningococcal disease among children. However, the evidence that SHS exposure is associated with invasive pneumococcal and Hib disease is only suggestive. These findings also indicate that exposure to SHS is associated with an increased carriage of N. meningitidis and S. pneumoniae. The accuracy and generalizability of these findings is limited by the small number of studies identified, by the lack of studies from developing countries where SHS exposure is increasing and the burden of IBD is high, and by large variations between the studies in how SHS exposure was measured and IBD diagnosed. Nevertheless, they suggest that, by reducing children's exposure to SHS (by, for example, persuading parents not to smoke at home), the illness and death caused by IBDs among children could be greatly reduced. Such a reduction would be particularly welcome in developing countries where vaccination against IBDs is low.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on secondhand smoke, on children and secondhand smoke exposure, on meningitis, and on Hib infection
The US Environmental Protection Agency also provides information on the health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke (in English and Spanish) and a leaflet (also in English and Spanish) entitled Secondhand Tobacco Smoke and the Health of Your Family
The US Office of the Surgeon General provides information on the health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke
The World Health Organization provides a range of information on the global tobacco epidemic
The World Health Organization has information on meningococcal disease (in English only) and on Hib (in several languages)
The US National Foundation for Infectious Diseases provides a fact sheet on pneumococcal disease
PMCID: PMC2998445  PMID: 21151890
23.  Building resiliency: a cross-sectional study examining relationships among health-related quality of life, well-being, and disaster preparedness 
Worldwide, disaster exposure and consequences are rising. Disaster risk in New Zealand is amplified by island geography, isolation, and ubiquitous natural hazards. Wellington, the capital city, has vital needs for evacuation preparedness and resilience to the devastating impacts and increasing uncertainties of earthquake and tsunami disasters. While poor quality of life (QoL) is widely-associated with low levels of engagement in many health-protective behaviors, the relationships among health-related quality of life (HrQoL), well-being, and preparedness are virtually unknown.
We hypothesized that QoL and well-being affect household evacuation preparedness. We performed a quantitative epidemiologic survey (cross-sectional design) of Wellington adults. Our investigation assessed health-promoting attributes that build resiliency, conceptualized as health-protective attitudes and behaviors. Multidimensional QoL variables were measured using validated psychometric scales and analyzed for associations with evacuation preparedness, and we determined whether age and gender affected these relationships.
We received 695 survey responses (28.5% response rate; margin of error ±3.8%; 80% statistical power to detect true correlations of 0.11 or greater). Correlational analyses showed statistically significant positive associations with evacuation preparedness for spiritual well-being, emotional well-being, and life satisfaction. No associations were found for mental health, social well-being, or gender; physical health was weakly negatively associated. Evacuation preparedness increased with age. Regression analyses showed that overall health and well-being explained 4.6-6.8% of the variance in evacuation preparedness. Spiritual well-being was the only QoL variable that significantly and uniquely explained variance in preparedness.
How well-being influences preparedness is complex and deeply personal. The data indicate that multidimensional readiness is essential, and meaningfulness is an important factor. Inadequate levels of tangible preparedness actions are accompanied by gaps in intangible readiness aspects, such as: 1) errors in perceived exposure to and salience of natural hazards, yielding circumscribed risk assessments; 2) unfamiliarity with the scope and span of preparedness; 3) underestimating disaster consequences; and 4) misinterpreting the personal resources required for self-managing disaster and uncertainty. Our results highlight that conceptualizing preparedness to include attitudes and behaviors of readiness, integrating well-being and meaningfulness into preparedness strategies, and prioritizing evacuation planning are critical for resiliency as a dynamic process and outcome.
PMCID: PMC4062284  PMID: 24909780
Earthquake; Evacuation; Hazards; Health promotion; Health outcomes; Prevention; Integrative disaster resilience; Risk perception; Self-management; Tsunami
24.  Rebuilding community resilience in a post-war context: developing insight and recommendations - a qualitative study in Northern Sri Lanka 
Individuals, families and communities in Northern Sri Lanka have undergone three decades of war trauma, multiple displacements, and loss of family, kin, friends, homes, employment and other valued resources. The objective of the study was understanding common psychosocial problems faced by families and communities, and the associated risk and protective factors, so that practical and effective community based interventions can be recommended to rebuild strengths, adaptation, coping strategies and resilience.
This qualitative, ecological study is a psychosocial ethnography in post-war Northern Sri Lanka obtained through participant observation; case studies; key- informant interviews; and focus groups discussions with mental health and psychosocial community workers as well as literature survey of media and organizational reports. Qualitative analysis of the data used ethnography, case studies, phenomenology, grounded theory, hermeneutics and symbolic interactionism techniques. Quantitative data on suicide was collected for Jaffna and Killinochchi districts.
Complex mental health and psychosocial problems at the individual, family and community levels in a post-war context were found to impair recovery. These included unresolved grief; individual and collective trauma; insecurity, self-harm and suicides; poverty and unemployment; teenage and unwanted pregnancies; alcoholism; child abuse and neglect; gender based violence and vulnerability including domestic violence, widows and female headed-household, family conflict and separation; physical injuries and handicap; problems specific for children and elderly; abuse and/or neglect of elderly and disabled; anti-social and socially irresponsible behaviour; distrust, hopelessness, and powerlessness. Protective factors included families; female leadership and engagement; cultural and traditional beliefs, practices and rituals; and creative potential in narratives, drama and other arts. Risk factors that were impeding community rehabilitation and recovery included continuing military governance, depletion of social capital particularly lack of trust, hope and socio-economic opportunity structures for development that would engender a sense of collective efficacy.
In view of the widespread trauma at the individual, family and collective levels, community based programmes to increase local awareness, knowledge and skills to deal with common mental health and psychosocial issues; and training of community level workers and others in basic mental health and psychosocial problem solving are recommended to rebuild family and community agency and resilience. The use of cultural practices and school based programmes would rekindle community processes.
PMCID: PMC3630062  PMID: 23305538
Collective trauma; Community resilience; Post-war; Post-conflict; Psychosocial; Community based interventions
25.  The Double Burden of Obesity and Malnutrition in a Protracted Emergency Setting: A Cross-Sectional Study of Western Sahara Refugees 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(10):e1001320.
Surveying women and children from refugee camps in Algeria, Carlos Grijalva-Eternod and colleagues find high rates of obesity among women as well as many undernourished children, and that almost a quarter of households are affected by both undernutrition and obesity.
Households from vulnerable groups experiencing epidemiological transitions are known to be affected concomitantly by under-nutrition and obesity. Yet, it is unknown to what extent this double burden affects refugee populations dependent on food assistance. We assessed the double burden of malnutrition among Western Sahara refugees living in a protracted emergency.
Methods and Findings
We implemented a stratified nutrition survey in October–November 2010 in the four Western Sahara refugee camps in Algeria. We sampled 2,005 households, collecting anthropometric measurements (weight, height, and waist circumference) in 1,608 children (6–59 mo) and 1,781 women (15–49 y). We estimated the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM), stunting, underweight, and overweight in children; and stunting, underweight, overweight, and central obesity in women. To assess the burden of malnutrition within households, households were first classified according to the presence of each type of malnutrition. Households were then classified as undernourished, overweight, or affected by the double burden if they presented members with under-nutrition, overweight, or both, respectively.
The prevalence of GAM in children was 9.1%, 29.1% were stunted, 18.6% were underweight, and 2.4% were overweight; among the women, 14.8% were stunted, 53.7% were overweight or obese, and 71.4% had central obesity. Central obesity (47.2%) and overweight (38.8%) in women affected a higher proportion of households than did GAM (7.0%), stunting (19.5%), or underweight (13.3%) in children. Overall, households classified as overweight (31.5%) were most common, followed by undernourished (25.8%), and then double burden–affected (24.7%).
The double burden of obesity and under-nutrition is highly prevalent in households among Western Sahara refugees. The results highlight the need to focus more attention on non-communicable diseases in this population and balance obesity prevention and management with interventions to tackle under-nutrition.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Good nutrition is essential for human health and survival. Insufficient food intake causes under-nutrition, which increases susceptibility to infections; intake of too much or inappropriate food, in particular in interaction with sedentary behaviour, can lead to obesity, which increases the risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. During the past 30 years, the prevalence (the proportion of a population affected by a condition) of obesity has greatly increased, initially among adults in industrialized countries, but more recently among children and in less-affluent populations. Now, worldwide, overweight people outnumber under-nourished people. Furthermore, some populations are affected by both under-nutrition and obesity, forms of malnutrition that occur when the diet is suboptimal for health. So, for example, a child can be both stunted (short for his or her age, an indicator of long-term under-nutrition) and overweight (too heavy for his or her age). The emergence of this double burden of malnutrition has been attributed to the nutrition transition—the rapid move because of migration or urbanization to a lifestyle characterized by low levels of physical activity and high consumption of refined, energy-dense foods—without complete elimination of under-nutrition.
Why Was This Study Done?
Refugees are one group of people in whom under-nutrition and obesity sometimes coexist. Worldwide, in 2010, 15.4 million refugees were dependent on host governments and international humanitarian agencies for their food security and well-being. It is essential that these governments and organizations provide appropriate food assistance programs to refugees—policies that are appropriate during acute emergencies may not be appropriate in protracted emergencies and may contribute to the emergence of the double burden of malnutrition among refugees. Unfortunately, the extent to which the double burden of malnutrition affects refugees in protracted emergencies is unknown. In this cross-sectional study (an investigation that looks at the characteristics of a population at a single time), the researchers assessed the double burden of malnutrition among people from Western Sahara who have been living in four refugee camps near Tindouf city, Algeria, since 1975.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data from a 2010 survey that measured the height and weight of children and the height, weight, and waist circumference of women living in 2,005 households in the Algerian refugee camps. For the children, they estimated the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (which includes thin, “wasted” children, as indicated by a low weight for height based on the World Health Organization growth standards, and those with nutritional oedema), stunting, and underweight and overweight (low and high weight for age and gender, respectively). For the women, they estimated the prevalence of stunting, underweight (body mass index less than 18.5 kg/m2), overweight (body mass index greater than 25 kg/m2), and central obesity (a waist circumference of more than 80 cm). Among the children, 9.1% had global acute malnutrition, 29.1% were stunted, 8.6% were underweight, and 2.4% were overweight. Among the women, 14.8% were stunted, 53.7% were overweight, and 71.4% had central obesity. Notably, central obesity and overweight in women affected more households than global acute malnutrition, stunting, and underweight in children. Finally, based on whether a household included members with under-nutrition or overweight, alone or in combination, the researchers classified a third of households as overweight, a quarter as undernourished, and a quarter as affected by the double burden of malnutrition.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that there is a high prevalence of the double burden of malnutrition among households in Western Saharan refugee camps in Algeria. Although this study provides no information on men and does not investigate whether the obesity seen in these camps leads to an increased risk of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, these findings have several important implications for the provision of food assistance and care for protracted humanitarian emergencies. For example, they highlight the need to promote long-term food security and to improve nutrition adequacy and food diversity in protracted emergencies. In addition, they suggest that current food assistance programs that are suitable for acute emergencies may not be suitable for extended emergencies. They also highlight the need to focus more attention on non-communicable diseases in refugee camps and to develop innovative ways to provide obesity prevention and management in these settings. However, as the researchers stress, careful policy and advocacy work is essential to ensure that efforts to deal with the threat of obesity among refugees do not jeopardize support for life-saving food assistance programs for refugees.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia provides background information about the Western Sahara refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of nutrition and obesity (in several languages)
The United Nations World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide; its website provides detailed information about hunger and information about its work in the Western Sahara refugee camps in Algeria, including personal stories and photographs of food distribution
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is the United Nations body mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide; its website provides detailed information about its work in the Western Sahara refugee camps in Algeria
Oxfam also provides detailed information about its work in the Algerian refugee camps, a description of the camps, and personal stories from people living in the camps
An article published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations explains the double burden of malnutrition
PMCID: PMC3462761  PMID: 23055833

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