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Demographic, physical, psychological, spiritual, and socio-cultural factors are associated with disaster resilience among older adults

Timalsina R, Songwathana P. Factors enhancing resilience among older adults experiencing disaster: A systematic review Australasian Emergency Care. 2020.

Review question

      What factors enhance disaster resilience among older adults?


      Natural disasters destroy both the physical and bio-social environment, impacting people immediately and over the long-term. Natural disasters also influence the lives of survivors and affect people’s health and wellbeing.

      Although many older adults suffer from mental-health problems after a disaster, resilience can help them cope with their effects.

      Considerable research has been undertaken on disaster resilience, but little attention has been paid to factors facilitating disaster resilience among older adults.

      The aim of this systematic review was to identify factors that enhance resilience among older adults after experiencing a natural disaster.

How the review was done

      Review authors conducted a detailed search of six research databases for eligible studies published between January 2000 and April 2019.

      Searches were conducted using key words like “factors”, “determinants”, “natural disasters”, “disaster resilience”, and “older adults”.

      A total of 156 papers were retrieved and screened for eligibility, and 5 of which were included.

      The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and publication of this article.

What the researchers found

      This systematic review identified five factors associated with resilience among older adults experiencing a disaster – demographic, physical, psychological, spiritual, and socio-cultural factors.

      Demographic factors – The findings of one study showed that resilience scores decreased with advancing age. Regarding gender, females had higher resilience scores than males. Higher resilience scores were found among single older adults as compared to married/partnered ones. This study concluded that age, gender, marital status, and race were predictors for resilience among older adults.

      Physical factors – A study based in the United States indicated that both good general health and physical health predicted higher resilience scores among older adults following a disaster.

      Psychological factors – Psychological factors included mental health and attitude towards sustainable development. The review found that self-rated mental health, anxiety, and depression were significantly associated with resilience scores among older adults after a disaster. This is consistent with previous studies, which showed that previous experience with hardships boosts resistance to repeated hardships in life.

      Spiritual factors – Spirituality played a vital role in disaster resilience among older adults. One study revealed that spirituality was a predictor of resilience among older adults after a disaster, highlighting that spirituality can decrease the vulnerability and trauma associated with a disaster. A second study found that religiosity can help older adults adapt to adversities after a disaster, promote older adults’ strength, and redirect their attention following a disaster.

      Socio-cultural factors – Emotional and social support, a sense of community and mutual support, social capital, and culture were identified as factors positively associated with disaster resilience. The review found that connection with peers, friends, and other significant persons were the most important measure of resilience.


      In conclusion, demographic, physical, psychological, spiritual, and socio-cultural factors are associated with resilience among older adults experiencing disasters.

      Health and social care professionals should critically evaluate resilience among older adults in order to help decrease their vulnerabilities during or after natural disasters.


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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