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28-06-2017 | Uitgave 11/2017

Quality of Life Research 11/2017

Resilience to health challenges is related to different ways of thinking: mediators of physical and emotional quality of life in a heterogeneous rare-disease cohort

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 11/2017
Carolyn E. Schwartz, Wesley Michael, Bruce D. Rapkin
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s11136-017-1633-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Carolyn E. Schwartz and Bruce D. Rapkin authors contributed equally to this work.



We sought to understand what distinguishes people who confront health challenges but still manage to thrive. This study investigated whether resilience helps to explain the impact of health challenges on quality of life (QOL) outcomes, and how resilience relates to appraisal.


A web-based survey of rare-disease panel participants included the Centers for Disease Control Healthy Days Core Module, the PROMIS-10, and comorbidities. The QOL Appraisal Profile—v2 assessed cognitive processes underlying QOL. Resilience was operationalized statistically using residual modeling, and hierarchical regressions tested the mediation hypothesis that resilience accounts for a significant amount of the relationship of appraisal to QOL.


The study sample (n = 3,324; mean age 50; 86% female; 90% White) represented a range of diagnostic codes, with cancer and diseases of the nervous system being the most prevalent health conditions. After adjusting for comorbidities (catalysts), resilience was associated with better physical and emotional functioning, and different appraisal processes were associated with better or worse physical or emotional functioning. After controlling for catalysts, 62% of the association of Physical Functioning and 23% of the association between Emotional Functioning and appraisal were mediated by resilience. Physical and emotional resilience comprised some of the same appraisal processes, but physically resilient people were characterized by more appraisal processes than their emotionally resilient counterparts.


Resilient people employ different appraisal processes than non-resilient people, and these processes differ for physical and emotional outcomes. Resilience was a stronger mediator of the relationship between physical rather than emotional functioning and appraisal.

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