Sense of Coherence – the core concept of Antonovsky’s salutogenic model – emerged from his studies on Holocaust survivors. A central issue in Antonovsky’s investigations was how certain people managed to remain healthy and live a good life in spite of having experienced devastating conditions. Antonovsky postulated that the way people make sense of the world and their place in it influences their health and well-being
People who perceive their life as comprehensible and meaningful and who also consider themselves capable of managing problems are better able to deal successfully with health-threatening stressful situations of everyday life.
Although disease processes and their consequences in terms of suffering, reduced function, and premature mortality are biological events taking place in human organs and cells, their ultimate causes are often social rather than biological in nature. This is not to say that the biological disease processes are not important, since obviously they are. But the distributions of health risks are most often socially determined.
SOC is defined as a dispositional orientation in which the internal and external environments are seen, to a greater or lesser extent, as comprehensible (the cognitive component of SOC that refers to whether stressors are seen as predictable and coherent), manageable (the instrumental component of SOC that refers to the sense that available resources are adequate to deal with stressors), and meaningful (the motivational component of SOC that determines if stressors are significant and worth of investment).
To put it bluntly, one needs to know not only what to do in a stressful situation, and that one is able to do something, but also why one should do it. See out other articles on mindset, here, for ideas of what to do and why they are of such benefit.
Sense of Coherence in Health
In general, previous research supports the direct effect of SOC on health, indicating that the stronger the SOC, the better the health. SOC also predicts future health, even if some studies have found that it is the weak SOC rather than the strong SOC that is more likely to predict future health outcomes. The most convincing evidence for the direct effect of SOC comes from investigations on SOC and mortality among men and women in the EPIC Norfolk study in United Kingdom. A strong SOC was associated with a 30% reduction in mortality from all causes, and the association remained after adjustment for traditional risk factors such as cigarette smoking, obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol, social class, and personality characteristics in terms of hostility and neuroticism.
At Conquering Fatigue Successfully we help our 1-2-1 clients explore these concepts, such as coherence and self-compassion (we include an 8 week course in self-compassio within our annual programmes) to help build resilience.