According to Laura Landro, who wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal, Friedrich Nietzsche’s oft-quoted adage, “what does not destroy me, makes me stronger” was “put to the test as part of a national study of the effects of adverse life events on mental health.” The study was created, implemented, and reported by researchers at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York, and the University of California, Irvine.
Landro tells us the study found that “people who had experienced a few adverse events in their lives reported better mental health and well-being than people who had a history of frequent adversity and people who had no history of misfortune.” The study included 2,398 participants ranging in age from 18 to 101.
Mark Seery, a researcher at the Department of Psychology at the University at Buffalo who co-authored the study, says “many studies have focused on personal characteristics or social resources that promote resilience. But the potential benefits of exposure to some adversity, relative to no adversity, have received less attention.” Dr. Seery adds that adversity can help people develop a “psychological immune system” to cope with the challenges of life, while people with no experience of adversity may have a difficult time dealing with tough times.
The study also found that higher levels of adversity can create feelings of hopelessness and loss of control, both of which could take a heavy toll on mental health and overall well-being. According to Dr. Seery, people who experienced “around two to four adverse events in their lifetimes appeared” to be better off than people who experienced five or more significant adverse events.
- How many adverse events have affected you during your life?
- When did an adverse situation most recently affect you?
- How did you react to the situation?
- What reaction would have been more beneficial?
- How does the severity of an adversity factor into the findings?
- What could (or can) others do to help you?
- How can you help others who are experiencing an adverse situation?
Thanks to Wendy for sharing the article upon which this post is based, Laura Landro for writing the article, The Wall Street Journal for publishing the article, and all the other people who directly or indirectly made it possible for me to use the picture and text I included in this post.