Navigating Everyday Stress and Wellbeing

Wednesday, 4 October 2017: Researchers at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) are looking at the structure and function of the brain to better understand mental health and wellbeing in adults. The study led by Dr Justine Gatt, aims to understand why some people are more resilient to stress than others, in order to identify the best ways to help Australians build resilience. 

Dr Gatt highlighted resilience plays an important part in everyday mental health and wellbeing and that building resilience is important to help protect against the development of mental health problems throughout our life.

“We know that everybody experiences some form of stress in their life – whether it is a major traumatic event such as the death of a loved one, or more ongoing daily stresses such as relationship conflicts or work demands,” Dr Gatt said.

“However, not everybody who experiences these stressful life experiences goes on to develop mental health problems. Some people are resilient.

“What we’re looking to identify are how people who may be more or less resilient differ in terms of their brain structure and function over time.”

The study is looking at processes of wellbeing and resilience in 1600 adult twins in Australia. Supported by a recently awarded NHMRC grant, Dr Gatt will retest these twins for changes in their brain over time.

NeuRA Director and CEO, Professor Peter Schofield, highlighted that in the last 30 years life has become a lot faster. With the internet and mobile phones, people are more ‘switched on’ than ever. Daily pressures from work, relationships, and managing finances are just some issues faced by everyday Australians.

“For many, these stressors can lead to into something more serious leading to anxiety and depression. Understanding and developing resilience is key to wellbeing,” Prof Schofield said.

Dr Justine Gatt and colleagues have developed and validated a questionnaire to measure wellbeing called ‘COMPAS-W’. They are hoping this study may also guide future work in developing and testing a set of navigation tools that help build wellbeing and resilience to stress in the community.