The relationship between disease and good health has received relatively little attention in mental health. Resilience can be viewed as a defence mechanism, which enables people to thrive in the face of adversity and improving resilience may be an important target for treatment and prophylaxis. Though resilience is a widely-used concept, studies vary substantially in their definition, and measurement. Above all, there is no common underlying theoretical construct to this very heterogeneous research which makes the evaluation and comparison of findings extremely difficult. Furthermore, the varying multi-disciplinary approaches preclude meta-analysis, so that clarification of research in this area must proceed firstly by conceptual unification. We attempt to collate and classify the available research around a multi-level biopsychosocial model, theoretically and semiotically comparable to that used in describing the complex chain of events related to host resistance in infectious disease. Using this underlying construct we attempt to reorganize current knowledge around a unitary concept in order to clarify and indicate potential intervention points for increasing resilience and positive mental health. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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