Carol RyffDr. Carol D. Ryff, Ph.D., is Director of the Institute on Aging and Hilldale Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research centers on the study of psychological well-being, an area in which she has developed multidimensional assessment scales that have been translated to more than 30 different languages and are used in research across diverse scientific fields. More than 500 publications have been generated using her scales of well-being. Investigations by Dr. Ryff and colleagues have addressed how psychological well-being varies by age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnic/minority status, and cultural context as well as by the experiences, challenges, and transitions individuals confront as they age. Whether psychological well-being is protective of good physical health is also a major interest, with ongoing longitudinal investigations linking positive psychosocial factors to a wide array of biomarkers (neuroendocrine, immune, cardiovascular) as well as to neural circuitry. A guiding theme in much of this inquiry is human resilience – i.e., how some individuals are able to maintain, or regain, their well-being in the face of significant life challenge and what neurobiology underlies this capacity.

Dr. Ryff has generated over 200 publications in the areas described above, and she currently directs the MIDUS (Midlife in the U.S.) longitudinal study, which is based on a large national sample of Americans, including twins.  Funded by the National Institute on Aging, MIDUS has become a major forum for studying health and aging as an integrated biopsychosocial process.  She is also Principal Investigator of MIDJA (Midlife in Japan), a parallel to the MIDUS investigation, for which she received an NIH Merit Award.

Dr. Ryff will be receiving the INPM’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her landmark research on well-being and positive aging during the Awards Banquet.

Dr. Ryff will be giving the following keynote lecture and conference workshop, as well as participating in the panel on Second Wave Positive Psychology (PP2.0) – Happiness & Well-Being for the 9th Biennial International Meaning Conference, July 28-31, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.

Keynote Title

Weaving the Tale Together: Aging, Purposeful Engagement, and Health

Scheduled for Saturday, July 30, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM


A model of well-being built on converging ideas from existential, humanistic, developmental and clinical psychology will be described.  Ties to Aristotle’s conception of eudaimonia will be noted.  Findings from longitudinal studies of aging have shown decline from midlife to old age in reported levels of purpose in life and personal growth.  Possible reasons for these patterns will be considered.  At the same time, findings reveal extensive variability among older persons, such that many do not fit this pattern of declining well-being.  Among those who remain purposefully engaged with life, numerous health benefits have been documented (e.g., reduced profiles of multiple disease outcomes, enhanced longevity, better profiles of preventive health behaviors, better brain-based profiles of emotion regulation).  Such salubrious linkages underscore the public health importance of promoting eudaimonic well-being across wider segments of the population.  Related interventions strategies in clinical, educational, and community contexts will be described, along with evidence of their effectiveness in enhancing well-being.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the theoretical underpinnings of a multidimensional model of well-being
  2. Understand connections between the model and Aristotle’s formulation of eudaimonia
  3. Learn about longitudinal changes in well-being in midlife and old age
  4. Learn about the diverse health benefits of remaining purposeful life engagement
  5. Learn about ongoing intervention strategies designed to enhance well-being

Workshop Title

Self-Realization and Meaning Making in the Face of Adversity: A Eudaimonic Approach to Human Resilience

Scheduled for Saturday, July 30, 4:15 PM – 5:15 PM


Ironically, deepened knowledge about self and essential meanings in life often follow from encounters with significant life difficulties.  This workshop will begin with a brief summary of insights from prior studies of resilience.  Three exceptional models of human resilience will then be considered with a focus on how they did it:  what personal qualities and social resources made their journeys of prevailing in the face of enormous hardship possible?  Going from exemplary cases to real-world examples, the third part of the workshop will examine varieties of resilience evident in the MIDUS (Midlife in the U.S.) national study.  These include those who have demonstrated a capacity to stay healthy and well despite adverse early life experiences (poverty, child abuse).  Resilience is also evident among those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged in adulthood and/or dealing with problems of racial/ethnic inequality.  Further examples of resilience include cancer survivors, parents of adult children with developmental disabilities, and those dealing with loss of a loved one.  The concluding section of the workshop will focus on whether and how self-realization and meaning making in the face of adversity might be more widely experienced, including how resilience might be nurtured via encounters with the arts (poetry, literature, music).

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn about prior conceptions of resilience and what have been identified as key protective resources
  2. Review/discuss three key exemplars of self-realization and meaning-making in the face of significant adversity; probe their strengths and resources
  3. Learn about varieties of resilience in the MIDUS national study
  4. Consider possible strategies (educational programs, intervention strategies) for promoting experiences of resilience
  5. Learn about the emerging initiatives related to the arts, health, and well-being

Panel Title

Second Wave Positive Psychology (PP2.0)

Scheduled for Saturday, July 30, 11:15 AM – 1:15 PM


  • Paul T. P. Wong
  • Gordon Medlock