What is Salutogenesis?
Salutogenesis focuses attention on the study of the origins (genesis) of health (salus) and of positive health outcomes - moving towards the positive end of an ease/disease continuum - in contrast to the more usual study of the origins of disease and risk factors (pathogenesis). Salutogenesis emphasizes the importance of sense of coherence - an individual or collective orientation towards life as being understandable, manageable, and meaningful. In health promotion, the salutogenetic approach focuses on strengthening resources and assets that help people to cope with adversarial life situations, promote wellbeing and thriving (Nutbeam and Muscat, 2021).
The concept was originally developed by Aaron Antonovsky (1979, 1987). It focuses on strengthening individual and social resources that protect and actively promote health. In essence, Salutogenesis is concerned with creating coherent living environments, strengthening socio-ecological health resources as well as strengthening the sense of coherence of individuals and groups. While health promotion is a key area for the application of Salutogenesis, Salutogenesis informs research and practice in areas as diverse as education, policy, organizational development or community and migration studies.
The term Salutogenesis is often associated with three different meanings, which are distinct but inextricably intertwined (Mittelmark and Bauer, 2017; Chapter 2, Handbook of Salutogenesis):
1. The salutogenic model:
The model, described in detail in Antonovsky’s 1979 book “Health, Stress and Coping”, posits that life experiences help shape one’s sense of coherence. A strong sense of coherence helps one mobilize general resistance resources to cope with stressors and manage tension successfully. Through this mechanism, the sense of coherence helps determine one’s movement on the health Ease/Dis-ease continuum.
2. Salutogenesis as the sense of coherence:
In its narrower meaning, Salutogenesis is often equated with one part of the model, the sense of coherence, defined as: “. . . a global orientation that expresses the extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic feeling of confidence that one’s internal and external environments are predictable and that there is a high probability that things will work out as well as can reasonably be expected.” (Antonovsky, 1979, p. 123).
3. The salutogenic orientation
In its most general meaning, Salutogenesis refers to a scholarly orientation focusing attention on the study of resources and assets for health leading to positive health, complementary to the pathogenic orientation that is concern with risk factors leading to specific disease outcomes.
STARS welcomes the exchange on Salutogenesis in all these meanings.