BACKGROUND: Findings from physical disease resilience research may be used to develop approaches to reduce the burden of disease. However, there is no consensus on the definition and measurement of resilience in the context of physical disease.
OBJECTIVE: The aim was to summarize the range of definitions of physical disease resilience and the approaches taken to study it in studies examining physical disease and its relationship to resilient outcomes.
METHODS: Electronic databases were searched from inception to March 2013 for studies in which physical disease was assessed for its association with resilient outcomes. Article screening, data extraction, and quality assessment were carried out independently by 2 reviewers, with disagreements being resolved by a third reviewer. The results were combined using a narrative technique.
RESULTS: Of 2280 articles, 12 met the inclusion criteria. Of these studies, 1 was of high quality, 9 were of moderate quality, and 2 were low quality. The common findings were that resilience involves maintaining healthy levels of functioning following adversity and that it is a dynamic process not a personality trait. Studies either assessed resilience based on observed outcomes or via resilience measurement scales. They either considered physical disease as an adversity leading to resilience or as a variable modifying the relationship between adversity and resilience.
CONCLUSION: This work begins building consensus as to the approach to take when defining and measuring physical disease resilience. Resilience should be considered as a dynamic process that varies across the life-course and across different domains, therefore the choice of a resilience measure should reflect this.