Can Adversity Make Us Stronger?

January 26, 2011 Katharina Lochner
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How We Deal With Adversity

Life does not always run smoothly. A lot of people have to deal with adversity throughout their lives – loss of a spouse, unemployment, a serious disease. It is surprising how well many people recover from such crises, some of them are even stronger than before. What are the mechanisms behind this?

In a study, researchers found that people who had experienced between two and six stressful events like deaths of loved ones or serious illnesses throughout their lives reported the highest level of well-being compared to those who had experienced more, but also compared to those who had experienced no adverse life events.

Even more surprising: The level of well-being of those without any bad experiences was about the same as the one of people who had suffered from up to a dozen crises. Therefore, the researchers compare resilience to physical exercise: You only benefit from it when you exercise, but without overdoing it. It is like a skill that can be improved by exercising.

The answer to the above question if adversity can make us stronger is yes. So there is a good side to everything. Adverse life events give us the opportunity to grow and to learn more about ourselves.

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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