Unraveling Resilience: Personality Predicts Exposure and Reaction to Stressful Life Events


  • Eva Asselmann
  • Theo A. Klimstra
  • Jaap J. A. Denissen


Resilience is a key construct in psychology, which describes the maintenance of comparatively good mental health despite of environmental adversities or successful recovery from such adversities. Furthermore, it labels a specific personality type, characterized by high levels across the Big Five. However, whether the resilient type predicts less unfavorable mental health changes around environmental adversities remains unresolved. In a nationally representative sample from the Netherlands (LISS panel, N = 12,551), we longitudinally examined whether changes of internalizing symptoms around four stressful life events (unemployment, disability, divorce, and widowhood) differed between resilients and non-resilients. Internalizing symptoms increased before but decreased after each event, indicating recovery. Compared to non-resilients, resilients experienced a weaker symptom increase before the onset of unemployment and a stronger symptom rebound after the onset of disability. Thus, resilients maintained higher levels of mental health and recovered faster when faced with specific adversities, which underscores the importance of personality types in resilience.