Research Article: Is higher resilience predictive of lower stress and better mental health among corporate executives?

Date Published: June 11, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Cindy A. Kermott, Ruth E. Johnson, Richa Sood, Sarah M. Jenkins, Amit Sood, Kenji Hashimoto.


To assess the impact of resilience, the ability to withstand and bounce back from adversity, on measures of well-being, self-reported stress, and mental health diagnoses.

This study was a cross-sectional survey of participants seen at an executive health practice at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, from January 2012 through September 2016. Participants completed an anonymous survey that included demographic information and 3 validated survey instruments—the 10-item Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC), the 12-item Linear Analogue Self-Assessment Scale (LASA), and the 14-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). Self-reported history of mental health diagnoses was also collected. CD-RISC scores were used to stratify participants into lower (<30), medium (30–34), or higher (≥35) resilience categories. Participants’ LASA scores, PSS scores, and self-reported mental health diagnoses were compared among resilience categories. Of the 2,027 eligible participants, 1,954 met the study inclusion criteria as currently employed corporate-sponsored executive or business professionals (self-designated) who completed the CD-RISC survey. Most participants (62.5%) were aged 40 to 59 years. The majority were male (78.3%), white (95.3%), educated (86.2%), and in a committed relationship (89.7%). Among participants, 41.7% reported higher resilience, 34.3% had medium resilience, and 24.0% had lower resilience. The quality of life and overall LASA scores were positively associated with higher resilience (P < .001). PSS scores and self-reported mental health diagnoses were negatively associated with higher resilience (P < .001). These associations remained significant after adjusting for patient characteristics. In this cross-sectional survey of a large cohort of corporative executives, the lower-resilience cohort had a 4-fold higher prevalence of depression and an almost 3-fold higher prevalence of anxiety compared with the higher-resilience cohort. High resilience was positively associated with well-being and negatively associated with perceived stress. Our findings suggest that higher resilience in the executive workplace environment is associated with better mental health, reduced stress, and greater well-being.

Partial Text

The World Health Organization has declared stress as the global epidemic of the 21st century. Approximately 80% of US workers now report feeling stressed at the workplace [1]. Commonly cited reasons for greater stress are increasing workload, interpersonal issues, imbalance between personal and work lives, adverse working conditions, and lack of job security [1–4]. The corporate world is subject to stress from economic pressures, competition, long working hours, downsizing, tight budgets, overall uncertainty, lack of support, unfair treatment, low decision latitude, conflicting roles, poor communication, a low sense of contribution to the society, gender inequality, and workplace bullying [3, 5–7].

Of the 2,027 eligible participants in the Executive Health program, 1,954 (96.4%) completed the 10-item CD-RISC. These participants constituted the final cohort for analysis in this study (Fig 1). The majority of participants (78.3%) were male, married or in a committed relationship (89.7%), and white (95.3%). Most had either a 4-year college degree (35.6%) or a graduate or professional degree (50.6%). Most participants were 40 to 59 years old (62.5%). Household incomes of $500,000 or more were reported by 39.0%, and 58.1% had incomes ranging from $100,000 to $499,999. Fourteen percent of respondents reported that they currently practiced meditation. Table 1 summarizes the demographics of the study cohort.

This large cross-sectional survey of executives showed that participants with higher resilience reported a higher quality of life and perceived less stress than those with medium or lower resilience. The association was unaffected by adjustments for education, age, gender, race, marital status, income, and current meditator status. Further, the self-reported history of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder was significantly different across levels of resilience, with the lower-resilience cohort reporting a 4-fold higher prevalence of depression compared with the higher-resilience cohort. A moderately positive correlation was observed between resilience and quality of life, and a moderately negative correlation was observed between resilience and perceived stress.