What is salutogenesis?

Salutogenesis is the science of the creation and maintenance of health. Salus comes from the Latin and means health, the word part-genesis literally means emergence. Thus, salutogenesis is seen as a counterpart to the pathogenesis which describes the development of disease. In the 1970s, medical sociologist Aaron Antonovsky investigated the factors that influence salutogenesis. He developed a theoretical model of the qualities needed to become and stay healthy.

Antonovsky's investigation

Antonovsky conducted a study on adaptability to menopause based on a group of women who had been imprisoned in concentration camps at a young age. He compared their ability to cope with this particular hormonal condition with that of a control group.

Despite the stress of the time in the concentration camp, there were women whom Antonovsky classified physically and mentally as completely healthy. They seemed to have endogenous resources that kept them healthy despite the bad experiences (stressors). Through Antonovsky's study, the hitherto common focus of science on the development of disease (pathogenesis) was complemented by the aspects of salutogenesis.

It quickly became clear that there are great differences between the approach to a disease from a salutogenic or pathogenetic point of view. Pathogenesis tries to avoid disease. Salutogenesis, on the other hand, tries to achieve an attractive health goal. Not the avoidance of high blood sugar by diet is then for example in diabetes mellitus in the foreground, but the successful jogging unit, which leads to a comprehensive well-being.

Further research focused more on how health is produced and how it can be maintained.

The sense of coherence

A term that is closely linked to salutogenesis is the sense of coherence. He was influenced by Antonovsky and means a sense of belonging and a deep inner satisfaction with himself and others. Three components are important for the sense of coherence:

  1. Understandability: The ability to establish relationships between the events that life holds.
  2. Coping ability: the ability to deal with events.
  3. Meaningfulness: The conviction that all events have meaning. This conviction makes it easier to accept the events.

Each person develops these three qualities within his first 20 years of life. Depending on how strongly they are pronounced, people can deal with crises with varying degrees of well-being, for example, with drastic experiences such as the death of a family member, stressful phases in the job or even a disease. How healthy we are depends so much on the characteristics of the three properties.

Resilience and salutogenesis

The two terms resilience and salutogenesis are closely related. Resilience means resilience. The more resilient we are, the better our body can ward off interference, the healthier we stay. So there are people who never get sick, even though they are exposed to many potentially pathological conditions. Others, on the other hand, are already in bed in light stress situations with fever or exhaustion symptoms. The former are more resilient because they can use personal resources in critical situations and see a crisis as an opportunity for development.

How do I stay healthy?

Theoretical models can be used to describe pathogenesis and salutogenesis well. But how does one achieve a sense of coherence in practice, as Antonovsky describes it?

Personal resilience resources such as intelligence, flexibility, hyperopia, material well-being, the social network, and the immune system play an important role. Those who have a high standard of living, many friends and a good education have the best conditions to stay healthy. Health is therefore heavily dependent on external circumstances. Equally crucial is a positive self-assessment and work on one's own identity. Only those who are at peace with themselves can stay healthy in the long term.

In conclusion, health is a process, not a condition. There are always phases in life where illness or health predominates. But a balanced lifestyle that promotes resistance resources and sets healthy health goals for salutogenesis is the best way to stay healthy in the long term.

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