Strengthening sense of coherence: opportunities for theory building in health promotion

S. Super, M.A.E. Wagemakers, H.S.J. Picavet, K.T. Verkooijen, M.A. Koelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Sense of coherence (SOC) reflects a coping capacity of people to deal with everyday life stressors and consists of three elements: comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness. SOC is often considered to be a stable entity that is developed in young adulthood and stabilizes around the age of 30. Recent studies have questioned this stability of SOC and some studies report on interventions that have been successful in strengthening SOC in adult populations. Currently, however, there is no clear understanding of the mechanisms underlying SOC. As a consequence, it is a challenge to determine what is needed in health promotion activities to strengthen SOC. This article aims to explore the mechanisms underlying SOC as these insights may underpin future health promotion efforts. An exploration of the salutogenic model suggests two important mechanisms: the behavioural and the perceptual. The behavioural mechanism highlights the possibility to empower people to use their resources in stressful situations. The perceptual mechanism suggests that, in order for people to deal with life stressors, it is essential that they are able to reflect on their understanding of the stressful situation and the resources that are available. Based on these mechanisms, we suggest that both empowerment and reflection processes, which are interdependent, may be relevant for health promotion activities that aim to strengthen SOC. The successful application of resources to deal with stressors is not only likely to have a positive influence on health, but also creates consistent and meaningful life experiences that can positively reinforce SOC levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-878
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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