Emotional resilience in older age has been defined as the ability to maintain psychological health in the face of risks or threats. It is a robust indicaor of what has been referred to as """"""""successful aging"""""""". However, little is known about predictors of emotional resilience across the life course, including the interplay of psychosocial, genetic, and stress-related environmental influences from earlier time points in life. Furthermore, little is known about how these predictors dynamically influence changing levels of resilience in the aging process and how resilience influences and is influenced by health-related behaviors, such as substance use. The overall goal for the proposed study is to fill in these gaps in the etiology and health-related impact of emotional resilience in the aging process, focusing on the influence of genetics, pathways by which genetics affect resilience, such as through personality factors and health-related behaviors, and the dynamic relationship between emotional resilience health behaviors over time. Ultimately, the hope is that findings will inform psychosocial and policy interventions to support the rapidly expanding population of older individuals throughout the aging process. As the aging population is quickly expanding in diversity, additional insights will be gained into the pathways to and impact of emotional resilience by investigating differences between racial/ethnic subgroups that may vary with respect to genetic and socioeconomic factors. Primarily, the project will utilize rich panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). HRS comprises a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population at least 50 years of age in the past two decades, including an oversample of African Americans and Hispanics. The HRS has recently performed a genome-wide scan of 2.4 million markers on DNA samples from nearly 20,000 of the 30,671 respondents with the plan for all genotype data to be released publicly via the Database of Genotypes and Phenotypes by December of 2013. In addition, the project will utilize a longitudinal household survey, representing adults in England aged 50 years or older, the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Data collection for ELSA (n=11,500) has been constructed to be as comparable as possible to the HRS, including the genotype data from 8,000 participants, which is projected for release by March 2014. By integrating the rich panel of longitudinal genetic, psychosocial, and stress-related environment data from both HRS and ELSA to examine the etiology and health-related effects of emotional resilience among older adults, the proposed project offers an exceptional opportunity for training and to gain depth of insight into how emotional resilience can be fostered as a measure of healthy aging in a group with growing diversity.

Public Health Relevance

Emotional resilience may confer protective effects in aging, against mental health problems or maladaptive behaviors, and has been highlighted as one key element in healthy aging. This project will use data from two longitudinal and nationally representative samples to enhance our understanding of emotional resilience in older adults, how it is influenced by genetics and stressful life events, and the dynamic relationship with behavioral health, with comparisons by racial/ethnic subpopulations. Findings will increase our ability to identify what contributes to emotional resilience among older adults, as well as our ability to identify key individual and environmental factors that may be amenable to psychosocial and policy interventions to support a quickly growing population of diverse older adults during this important stage of life.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Nielsen, Lisbeth
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University of Southern California
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Los Angeles
United States
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