A Systematic Review of Genetic Influence on Psychological Resilience

Kosuke Niitsu, Michael J. Rice, Julia F. Houfek, Scott F. Stoltenberg, Kevin A. Kupzyk, Cecilia R. Barron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


When exposed to adversity, some individuals are at an increased risk of posttraumatic stress disorder, experiencing persistent biopsychosocial disturbances, whereas others adapt well, described as resilience. Resilience is a complex biopsychosocial phenomenon conceptualized as adaptation to adversity influenced by an individual’s genetic variants, epistasis, epigenetics, and gene-by-environment interactions. Studies on psychological resilience have focused on behavioral and psychosocial variables with far less examination of the genetic contributions. The purpose of this review is to identify specific genetic variants contributing to the biological capacity for psychological resilience. PubMed and PsycINFO were searched using the following key words: psychological resilience AND genotype(s). Additional articles were identified from the Human Genome Epidemiology Navigator using the term resilience, psychological. Ten studies met the criteria. Six genes were empirically associated with psychological resilience: serotonin-transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR), dopamine receptor D4, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor 1, oxytocin receptor and regulator of G-protein signaling 2. The findings of this systematic review suggest that the L/L or L’/L’ genotype of 5-HTTLPR and rs25531 in children/adolescents and the S/S or S’/S’ genotype in adults are most frequently related to resilience. Additionally, the Val/Val genotype of rs6265 in BDNF in Caucasians was also associated with resilience. There are numerous factors contributing to the complexity of determining the genetic influence on resilience including analysis of rs25531, assumptions of the mode of inheritance, operationalization of resilience, demographic and population characteristics, sample size, and other types of genetic influence including epistasis and epigenetics. While current evidence is supportive, further investigation of the genetic influence on resilience is required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Research for Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • adversity
  • gene-by-environment interaction
  • genetics
  • genotype
  • psychological resilience
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Research and Theory


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