Consistent failure over the past few decades to reduce the high prevalence of stress-related disorders has motivated a search for alternative research strategies. Resilience refers to the phenomenon of many people maintaining mental health despite exposure to psychological or physical adversity. Instead of aiming to understand the pathophysiology of stress-related disorders, resilience research focuses on protective mechanisms that shield people against the development of such disorders and tries to exploit its insights to improve treatment and, in particular, disease prevention. To fully harness the potential of resilience research, a critical appraisal of the current state of the art — in terms of basic concepts and key methods — is needed. We highlight challenges to resilience research and make concrete conceptual and methodological proposals to improve resilience research. Most importantly, we propose to focus research on the dynamic processes of successful adaptation to stressors in prospective longitudinal studies.

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Acknowledgements

The following colleagues were helpful in proof-reading and approving the submitted manuscript: D. Hermans, F. Raes and J. Vlaeyen (all University of Leuven, Belgium), B. Berninger, H. Luhmann, R. Nitsch, K. Radyushkin, S. Ryu, M. Schreckenberger, S. Schweiger, A. Stroh, U. Zechner (all at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz), A. Acker-Palmer, S. Duvarci, J. Roeper, T. Sigurdsson (all at Goethe University), J. Letzkus, E. Schuman (both at Max Planck Institute for Brain Research) and V. Tiwari (Institute for Molecular Biology). In preparing this Perspective, U.B. was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG CRC 1193, subproject C06); G.A.B. by the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (project 2013067), David and Maureen O’Connor, and the Rockefeller Foundation (2012-RLC 304); A.C. by DFG CRC 1193, subproject C04; E.B. by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme (EU H2020/705217); C.J.F. by DFG CRC 1193, subprojects C03 and C06, DFG FI 848/5-1, and the European Research Council (ERC-CoG 617891); I.G.-L. by the National Institute of Mental Health (K01MH102415); S.G. by DFG CRC 1193, subproject B05; E.J.H. by the ERC (ERC-CoG682591); R.K. by DFG CRC 1193, subprojects B01 and C01, and the State of Rhineland-Palatinate (project 1080, MARP); K.L. by DFG CRC 1193, subproject Z03, and the State of Rhineland-Palatinate (project 1080, MARP); B.L. by DFG CRC 1193, subprojects A02, B03, and Z02; M.B.M. by DFG CRC 1193, subprojects A03 and Z02; R.J.M. by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF 100014-143398; project no. un 8306); A.R. by DFG CRC 1193, subprojects C07 and Z03, and EU H2020/2014-2020 (643051 (MiND) and 667302 (CoCA)); K.R. by the ERC (ERC_StG2012_313749) and the NWO (NWO VICI no. 453-12-001); B.P.F.R. by the NWO (NWO VENI no. 916-11-086); D.S. by the SNF (SNF 100014-143398, project no. un 8306); O.T. by DFG CRC 1193, subproject C04, and the State of Rhineland-Palatinate (project 1080, MARP); A.-L.v.H. by the Royal Society (DH150176); C.H.V. by the Netherlands Brain Foundation (Fellowship F2013(1)-216) and the NWO (NWO VENI no. 451-13-001); T.D.W. by the National Institute of Health (NIH); M.We. by DFG CRC 1193, subprojects C05 and C07; and M.Wi. by DFG CRC 1193, subproject C04. The authors thank A. Kline and J. L. Jenness for providing unpublished results.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Deutsches Resilienz Zentrum (DRZ), University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University, 55131, Mainz, Germany

    • Raffael Kalisch
    • , Andrea Chmitorz
    • , Sergiu Groppa
    • , Isabella Helmreich
    • , Thomas Kubiak
    • , Klaus Lieb
    • , Beat Lutz
    • , Marianne B. Müller
    • , Anita Schick
    • , Oliver Tüscher
    •  & Michèle Wessa
  2. Neuroimaging Center (NIC), Focus Program Translational Neuroscience (FTN), Johannes Gutenberg University, 55131, Mainz, Germany

    • Raffael Kalisch
    •  & Anita Schick
  3. intresa consortium, Langenbeckstraβe 1, 55131, Mainz, Germany

    • Raffael Kalisch
    • , Eddie Brummelman
    • , Andrea Chmitorz
    • , Guillén Fernàndez
    • , Isabella Helmreich
    • , Talma Hendler
    • , Erno J. Hermans
    • , Thomas Kubiak
    • , Klaus Lieb
    • , Ryan J. Murray
    • , Andreas Reif
    • , Karin Roelofs
    • , David Sander
    • , Anita Schick
    • , Oliver Tüscher
    • , Ilse Van Diest
    • , Anne-Laura van Harmelen
    • , Ilya M. Veer
    • , Henrik Walter
    • , Michèle Wessa
    •  & Birgit Kleim
  4. CRC 1193 consortium, Johannes Gutenberg University, 55131, Mainz, Germany

    • Raffael Kalisch
    • , Ulrike Basten
    • , Christian J. Fiebach
    • , Sergiu Groppa
    • , Klaus Lieb
    • , Beat Lutz
    • , Marianne B. Müller
    • , Andreas Reif
    • , Oliver Tüscher
    • , Michèle Wessa
    •  & Michael Wibral
  5. VA Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health and VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA, 92161, USA

    • Dewleen G. Baker
    •  & Caroline M. Nievergelt
  6. Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, 92093, USA

    • Dewleen G. Baker
    •  & Caroline M. Nievergelt
  7. Department of Psychology, Goethe University Frankfurt, 60323, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

    • Ulrike Basten
    •  & Christian J. Fiebach
  8. University Medical Center Utrecht, Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, 3584, CX, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    • Marco P. Boks
    • , Elbert Geuze
    •  & Christiaan H. Vinkers
  9. Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, 10027, NY, USA

    • George A. Bonanno
  10. Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305, USA

    • Eddie Brummelman
  11. Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam, 100 NG, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    • Eddie Brummelman
  12. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University, 55122, Mainz, Germany

    • Andrea Chmitorz
    • , Isabella Helmreich
    • , Klaus Lieb
    • , Marianne B. Müller
    •  & Oliver Tüscher
  13. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University Medical Centre, 6500 HB, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

    • Guillén Fernàndez
    • , Erno J. Hermans
    •  & Karin Roelofs
  14. IDeA Center for Individual Development and Adaptive Education of Children at Risk, 60486, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

    • Christian J. Fiebach
  15. Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, 10016, USA

    • Isaac Galatzer-Levy
  16. Military Mental Healthcare — Research Centre, Ministry of Defence, 2500 ES, The Hague, The Netherlands

    • Elbert Geuze
    •  & Eric Vermetten
  17. Department of Neurology, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University, 55131, Mainz, Germany

    • Sergiu Groppa
  18. Tel Aviv Center For Brain Functions, Wohl Institute for Advanced Imaging, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, 64239, Tel Aviv, Israel

    • Talma Hendler
  19. School of Psychological Sciences, Tel Aviv University, 6997801, Tel Aviv, Israel

    • Talma Hendler
  20. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, 30307, USA

    • Tanja Jovanovic
  21. Department of Health Psychology, Institute of Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University, 55122, Mainz, Germany

    • Thomas Kubiak
  22. Institute of Physiological Chemistry, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University, 55128, Mainz, Germany

    • Beat Lutz
  23. Developmental Clinical Psychology Research Unit, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Geneva, 1205, Geneva, Switzerland

    • Ryan J. Murray
  24. Laboratory for the Study of Emotion Elicitation and Expression (E3 Lab), Department of Psychology, University of Geneva, 1205, Geneva, Switzerland

    • Ryan J. Murray
    •  & David Sander
  25. Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva, 1205, Geneva, Switzerland

    • Ryan J. Murray
    •  & David Sander
  26. Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Frankfurt, 60528, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

    • Andreas Reif
  27. Behavioural Science Institute (BSI), Radboud University, 6525 HP, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

    • Karin Roelofs
  28. Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, School for Mental Health and Neuroscience, 6229 ET, Maastricht, The Netherlands

    • Bart P. F. Rutten
  29. Health Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Leuven, 3000, Leuven, Belgium

    • Ilse Van Diest
  30. Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 0SZ, UK

    • Anne-Laura van Harmelen
  31. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité Universitätsmedizin, 10117, Berlin, Germany

    • Ilya M. Veer
    •  & Henrik Walter
  32. Leiden University Medical Center, 2333 ZA, Leiden, The Netherlands

    • Eric Vermetten
  33. Arq Psychotrauma Research Group Diemen, 1110 AC, Diemen, The Netherlands

    • Eric Vermetten
  34. Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 80302, USA

    • Tor D. Wager
  35. Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 80309, USA

    • Tor D. Wager
  36. Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt University, 10099, Berlin, Germany

    • Henrik Walter
  37. Department of Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology, Institute of Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University, 55122, Mainz, Germany

    • Michèle Wessa
  38. MEG Unit, Brain Imaging Center (BIC), Goethe University Frankfurt, 60528, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

    • Michael Wibral
  39. Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, University of Zurich, 8032, Zurich, Switzerland

    • Birgit Kleim

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Competing interests

All authors report to have no financial and non-financial actual or perceived competing interests. A.R. has received a research grant from Medice and speakers honoraria from neuraxpharm and Boehringer. H.W. has received a speaker’s honorarium from Servier. All other authors report no financial relationships with commercial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Raffael Kalisch.