Resilient Youth in Stressed Environments

Resilient Youth in Stressed Environments (RYSE) was a five-year international research project that  examined the psychological, social, and biological resilience of young people, their families and extended communities who are stressed by living in environments affected by oil production. 


Youth living close to industrial locations experience increased risks of harmful environmental exposures from regular business activities and natural disasters. Young people may be more vulnerable to psychological and physical harm due to the stress and fear of potential exposure. 

This project aimed to identify the conditions and strategies that enhance the health and wellbeing of youth and their communities that are negatively affected by petrochemical industries.

The study was designed to collaborate with youth and their adult allies to identify beneficial processes to enhance the adaptive capacity and resilience of young people, ages 15-24, who live with industrial and climate-related risks.  

In particular, the project explored how young people in Canada (a high income country) and South Africa (a middle income country), adapted to living with oil and gas production and disasters. Their methods of resilience could then be used to improve the lives of young people globally. 

Two Canadian communities, Drayton Valley and Cambridge Bay, Alberta, and Secunda, a community in South Africa, participated in the project.


Three multidisciplinary teams in Canada and South Africa collaborated to study the resilience of young people and the relationship with the economic, social, and environmental disruptions (some positive, some negative) that are related to the petrochemical industry.

Each of the three teams aimed to understand resilience at multiple levels: 

  • the first team focused on youth psychological and social development
  • the second examined community processes leading to youth resilience 
  • the third studied changes to local physical environments and the ways these environments can influence human resilience.

The multi-method approach of this study contributed towards an integrated model of youth resilience during the petroleum cycle, from energy production to climate change. Most importantly, each of the three intersectoral teams promoted the perspectives of youth to become catalysts for change.

  • The project launched in 2017, with initial community and youth engagement in Drayton Valley, Alberta and Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
  • Participatory creative arts and play-based research methods with interviews and social mapping were used to identify youth priorities related to health and wellness in their communities
  • Youth and adult engagement and feedback from the communities included resilience surveys, environmental mapping and stress biomarker data.



The research outcomes helped to identify and enable processes to support young people’s health and well-being and to alleviate stress from living close to petroleum industries. 

The project collaborated with youth to increase and champion their capacity as researchers, scientists, influencers and decision-makers.

Reports & Publications