Carol Ryff

Carol D. Ryff is Director of the Institute on Aging and Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her doctoral degree in 1978 from The Pennsylvania State University in Human Development and is a fellow of the American Psychological Association’s Adult Development and Aging division (APA Division 20) and the Gerontological Society of America. 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 25 different languages and are used in research across diverse scientific fields. Investigations by Ryff and her 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 one of Ryff’s major interests and the source of her ongoing longitudinal investigations linking positive psychosocial factors to a wide array of bio-markers (neuroendocrine, immune, cardiovascular) as well as to neural circuitry. A guiding theme in much of this inquiry is human resilience—that is, how some individuals are able to maintain, or regain, their well-being in the face of significant life challenge and what neurobiological, psychological, and social factors underlie this capacity.

Ryff’s model of psychological well-being, encompassing six dimensions, has been instrumental in developing a well-being enhancing psychotherapeutic strategy, called well-being therapy. This therapeutic approach has been validated in several randomized controlled studies. Impairments in environmental mastery, autonomy, personal growth, interpersonal relationships, goal in life, and self-acceptance, the six dimensions of well-being, are frequently observed in clinical practice. Another important area of application is concerned with the process of recovery. Ryff’s work has yielded seminal implication for counseling and clinical psychology, psychiatry, and psychosomatic medicine all over the world.

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Ryff has written more than 120 publications in the research areas described above, and she currently directs the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) longitudinal study, which is based on a large national sample of Americans, including twins. Funded by a $26 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, MIDUS II has become a major forum for studying health in aging as an integrated biopsychosocial process.


  1. Ryff, C. D., Love, G. D., Urry, H. L., Muller, D., Rosenkranz, M. A., Friedman, E., et al. (2006). Psychological well-being and ill-being: Do they have distinct or mirrored biological correlates? Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 75, 85-95.
  2. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1996). Psychological well-being: Meaning, measurement, and implications for psychotherapy research. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 65, 14-23.
  3. Singer, B., & Ryff, C. D. (2001). New horizons in health: An integrative approach. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

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