Bouncing back – resilience
After looking at positive coping in my post from yesterday, I hoped to bring an assessment to light – and lo and behold I found one!
This brief assessment differs from other resilience measures in that it looks at recovery, resistance, growth and adaptation rather than simply the resources a person might bring into a stressful situation. Smith and colleagues from the University of New Mexico developed this assessment and tested it on four groups of people – those recovering from cardiac problems, a group of women with fibromyalgia, and as usual, two groups of university students.

What’s nice about this scale is that it contains only six items:
1. I tend to bounce back quickly after hard times
2. I have a hard time making it through stressful events (R)
3. It does not take me long to recover from a stressful event
4. It is hard for me to snap back when something bad happens (R)
5. I usually come through difficult times with little trouble
6. I tend to take a long time to get over set-backs in my life (R)

The (R) refers to reverse scoring.

I don’t want to go into the research design this time around, but cut straight to the results – which showed that the Brief Resilience Scale ‘was positively correlated with the resilience measures, optimism, and purpose in life, and negatively correlated with pessimism and alexithymia. In addition, it was positively correlated with social support and negatively correlated with negative interactions. Finally, it was consistently positively correlated with active coping and positive reframing and negatively correlated with behavioral disengagement, denial, and self-blame.’

It looks like it correlates well with the things I’m keen on identifying in the people I work with. Along with the above associations, the results also ‘consistently negatively correlated with perceived stress, anxiety, depression, negative affect, and physical symptoms. In addition, it was positively correlated with positive affect in three of the four samples and with exercise days per week in the cardiac rehabilitation sample. It was negatively correlated with fatigue in the cardiac sample and negatively correlated with fatigue and pain in the sample of middle-aged women.’

So what I hear you cry! We can find out if people perceive themselves as ‘bounce-back’ people, or not. What of it?
Well, my thoughts are that these are protective features in a person – perhaps this group of people will manage their pain rather more readily than those who show low levels of bouncability (is that a word?!). If we can enhance these attributes – or if we have people who demonstrate a high score on this assessment but are temporarily lacking in things like social support, active coping or optimism – we might be able to provide ‘pain management lite’ to these people, allowing us to focus on helping them grow and make positive changes. In people who don’t demonstrate such resilience, we may need to focus our attention on a much more intensive programme to help them not only access social support, develop active coping or start to become more optimistic, but also help them gain a sense of their own resilience.

I can see a measure like this being used as an outcome measure – instead of focusing exclusively on changes in depression score or disability, we can add in a measure of resilience – and it may well help people develop a sense of their ability to bounce back from other health problems in the future. What I like about it is the brevity, the positive focus and that instead of looking at factors that enhance resilience, it directly measures self perception of resilience. If we add some of the other measures that look at what contributes to resilience, we start to develop a battery of assessment measures that we can use to help enhance our understanding of what works and what can be supported, rather than what needs to be ‘managed’ or are deficits.

If you’ve enjoyed this brief post, come on back tomorrow – there will be more! I post most week days, love comments and usually respond quickly, and I’m keen to expand the areas that you might like to hear about. If you’d like to introduce yourself, feel free to drop me a line via the ‘About’ page – that will send directly to my intray. Have a great day and I hope you come back again.

Smith, B., Dalen, J., Wiggins, K., Tooley, E., Christopher, P., & Bernard, J. (2008). The brief resilience scale: Assessing the ability to bounce back International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 15 (3), 194-200 DOI: 10.1080/10705500802222972



  1. Hi! Saw this piece on a Google alert for resilience and think it is very valuable. Thanks. I also thought I’d share with you the title of an ebook that I’m about to launch called “Staying Up In Down Times: Creating Resilience, Results, and Real Rewards — With Whatever Life Throws At You!

    While not touching on health and wellness specificially, the ebook is a primer in creating what truly matters to you — independent (but not ignorant) of current circumstances, problems and adversity.

    I see a positive feedback between resilience and the capacity to create (as distinct from solve problems) and find that my clients become more resilient as they develop their creating abilities. (By “creating” I mean the act of creating, not merely creativity.)

    I’d love to send you a pre-launch copy of the book for comments and suggestions. You can email me at

    Paul Stoltz, author of Adversity Quotient endorses it and says it’s “a great read.”

    Thanks for considering my request.


    1. Hi Bruce
      Thanks for stopping by! Your book sounds great, and I’ll be in touch. I do think people grow and develop and that problems are often the catalyst for this growth, so it makes sense to look at how to respond with flexibility and a positive attitude. Cheers

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