Psychological resilience refers to the maintenance or recovery of mental health after times of adversity [5,6,7]. According to the developmental systems perspective, adaptive capacity depends on multiple interacting systems e.g., [8,9,10,11]. For example, a young person is embedded in systems such as family and school, which are, in turn, embedded in higher order systems such as community and economies. The systems perspective hypothesises that the process of adaptation depends on the capacity of these systems to adapt in response to threat. The shift toward the systems perspective was largely influenced by the growing threat of mass-trauma global adversities, including terror attacks, natural environmental disasters, and pandemics [9, 12]. In the current paper, we focus on the individual-level. We answer questions about how young people coped during the COVID-19 outbreak and investigate factors or processes that support adaptive success . Individual-level factors that promote resilience in adolescents include age and gender, as well as active coping strategies, hope, and optimism [7, 13]. Overall, individuals show varying levels of resilience in response to stressful life events .
The use of effective coping skills to regulate emotional experiences during, or after, adversity is an example of an adaptive process underpinning resilience . Coping skills can be conceptualised in different ways , including differentiating between active (or approach) and passive (or avoidant) coping skills. Active coping involves using cognitive and behavioural strategies to directly reduce or control stress, such as problem-solving, seeking social support, and cognitive restructuring, whereas passive coping involves avoiding or disengaging from sources of stress . In general, active coping strategies are related to better adjustment to stress and improved mental health compared to passive strategies [15, 16]. Similarly, research has also shown that active coping strategies, such as problem-solving and social support seeking, are important in the transition from adolescence to early adulthood . Taken together, this research indicates that the use of active coping skills may be indicative of resilience in response to COVID-19.
The aims of this mixed-methods study were two-fold. The first aim was to explore resilience, positive experiences, and active coping strategies in Australian adolescents between 12 and 18 years. For the qualitative component, young people were asked to answer open-ended questions about coping strategies employed during the pandemic. Based on previous studies from the youth and adult literature during COVID-19 [18, 19, 21, 24], we expected that adolescents would report positive experiences and engagement in primarily active (versus passive) coping strategies. The second aim was to investigate associations between resilience and demographic characteristics (age, gender, mental illness history), distress, and positive experiences. Given the early stage of COVID-19 research in youth sample, our analysis of the associations between resilience and other variables were exploratory.
In our sample of young people, mental illness history was more strongly related to resilience compared to age and gender. This finding corresponds to prior COVID-19 research in young people showing that mental illness history is related to higher distress [18, 27]. Young people with a mental illness history may be more vulnerable to increased threat caused by COVID-19. Vulnerability may be explained by having fewer skills to manage distress and facilitate adaptation, or by an inability to use acquired coping skills effectively when the broader system is threatened. This interpretation aligns with research showing that effective emotion regulation is dependent on context , with flexible selection and timing of strategy use linked to better emotional outcomes e.g., [43, 50].
Our exploratory results indicate that gender might influence vulnerability to adversity and, by extension, capacity for positive experiences. Young people who identified as female or non-binary/another gender reported significantly lower resilience. Although a comparison to pre-pandemic levels was not available, this general pattern of results is consistent with prior research [18, 54, 55]. Given that young females have higher rates of mental health problems, particularly internalising disorders such as anxiety and depression, they may be more vulnerable during prolonged stressors. Gender differences in resilience are not well understood and further research is needed to explore how gender affects vulnerability to and recovery after stressful life events. Identifying vulnerable individuals who are struggling to cope will help allocate mental health resources to those who need them most in the aftermath of COVID-19.
The current study had several limitations. Given our focus on internalising symptoms (e.g., psychological distress), we did not examine externalising disorders. Examining the relationship between resilience and externalising disorders in the context of large-scale public health emergencies is an area for future research. We also used a convenience sample of young people that was recruited online using established networks within the Black Dog Institute. Although this approach facilitated timely administration and data collection, which was necessary in the context of a rapidly evolving public health disaster, selection bias may limit generalisability to the broader population of Australian young people. For example, 72% of our sample were female, 9.4% identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, and 88.1% were born in Australia. These percentages are higher than recent population estimates of gender, First Nations identification, and country of origin among Australian young people . Sampling methods have been identified as a critical issue in COVID-19 research .
Finally, this study was cross-sectional and correlational. This design means that causal conclusions cannot be made about resilience, coping, and other positive outcomes, nor about the long-term positive effects of COVID-19 on Australian youth. We cannot compare the resilience levels reported in our sample to pre-pandemic levels. Repeated assessments of resilience over the long-term are important to explore changes in resilience levels as COVID-19 progresses (e.g., emergence of the Delta or Omicron variants) and in response to government and community initiatives. In particular, there is a pressing need for prospective longitudinal resilience studies  that assess multiple developmental systems (e.g., individual, family, and economic; 13). Assessing multiple levels has the advantage of documenting cascading consequences, whether positive or negative, of large-scale environmental stressors such as COVID-19. Understanding the full impact of COVID-19 is critical to developing effective mental health disaster readiness and response plans for young people.
Our study showed that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, young Australians have demonstrated resilience, albeit some more than others, as well as the capacity for positive experiences. Our study also showed that a large proportion of young people reported using active coping strategies during the rapidly evolving, unpredictable circumstances that they found themselves in. Building on prior work, our results indicate that resilience and distress are important targets for youth psychological intervention in public health emergencies such as pandemics. A major question for public health authorities is how to improve and prepare young people for a response to ongoing pandemics, as well as future pandemics, disasters and other impending crises driven by climate change. Clearly a psychological disaster plan is needed. Drawing upon the strengths of young people and incorporating capacity building before disaster strikes is likely to increase resilient responding. A systems-level approach that helps young people to focus on the positives and to build a repertoire of coping strategies is needed to maximise beneficial outcomes in the long-term following pandemics.
In 1998, this survey asked 30,000 Americans how much stress they had experienced in the past year and whether they believed stress was harmful to their health. Eight years later, the researchers started rummaging through public records to see what had happened to these people in the meantime.
Based on their findings, the researchers estimated that during the eight years between the original study of 1998 and the scouring of public records in 2006, around 182,000 Americans died prematurely because of the belief that stress was harming their health. So, once again: not because of their stressful lives, but simply because they believed that their stressful lives were bad for them.
At 43%, the United States came in pretty high, but not as high as the Philippines, which took the top spot at 67%. Mauritania was the least stressed country: only 5% of the people from this African country felt stressed-out the day before being polled.
How could that be? Well, simply put, because higher levels of stress seem to go along with the very things that make our lives meaningful: love and partners, families and babies, careers and jobs, overall satisfaction with our lives.
A 2013 study at Stanford and Florida State University made this connection quite explicit. It found out that people who report the highest number of stressful events in their past are also the ones who are most likely to consider their lives meaningful.
Stress makes you feel focused and excited, confident, and energized. If you believe that stress is good for you, it will be: suddenly, instead of hindering your capabilities, it will help you start performing at the height of your powers!
This article will provide several resources that explain the origins of stress and anxiety as well as coping strategies from several therapeutic areas. By providing a wide range of coping strategies, we hope that everyone reading this article can find a technique that works for them. 2b1af7f3a8