Happiness, Resilience, and Positive Growth Following Physical Disability: Issues for Understanding, Research, and Therapeutic Intervention



  • © 2009 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved. Do well-being and happiness change following acquired physical disability? The onset of physical disability occurs due to trauma or disease, either of which can mean a reduction in function (e.g., activities of daily living) or the literal loss of a body part (e.g., limb amputation). Restricted mobility, activity, or physical loss can have psychological consequences, so that some individuals report a variety of depressive symptoms and problem behaviors following disability onset. Yet many people with disabilities do not suffer from depression or behavioral difficulties; rather, they adjust to their circumstances reasonably well. Following the onset of disability and subsequent rehabilitation, then, many individuals report relatively favorable levels of subjective well-being (SWB) and happiness, and that they take pleasure in daily life, including work, play, and interactions with family and friends. The focus of this chapter is those individuals who exhibit positive reactions to living with disability. We hope that products and insights from their positive responses can develop new or revised existing therapies to promote the health and well-being of others, the goal of rehabilitation psychology. Our discussion is grounded in the theoretical and empirical perspectives of positive psychology; the constructive, person-situation focus of rehabilitation psychology; and the approaches emerging from the synergy of both research areas. Positive psychology emphasizes three complementary foci: subjective states, individual processes, and the creation and maintenance of positive social institutions. Against the backdrop of acquired physical disability, we consider the first two foci by examining happiness and then resiliency and positive growth. We then consider the implications of our review for future research and therapy.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13

  • 9780195187243