Development of Sense of Coherence in Adulthood

  • T. Feldt


Sense of coherence (SOC) describes a health-protective life orientation with feelings of comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness (Antonovsky, 1987). Although SOC is a construct that is assumed to remain relatively stable throughout the adult life, some modifications in the level of SOC are expected to occur. At least two hypotheses have been proposed to describe the changes in SOC in adulthood. First, in later adulthood after the age of 30, SOC is assumed to be relatively stable whereas among younger adults fluctuation in SOC is more expected. This stabilization of SOC at age 30 is called the "Age-hypothesis". Second, the achieved level of SOC is assumed to play a role in the stability of the SOC: Stability is hypothesized to be higher among people with a high SOC than those with a low SOC, referred to as the "Level-hypothesis". Although these hypotheses represent fundamental parts of the SOC theory, there are only few studies which have been tested empirically these assumptions within a single study. The aim of this presentation is to discuss the stability of SOC based on the evidence provided large longitudinal studies collected among Finnish adults. The results of these studies show that there is a general upward trend in SOC with increasing age, and that the achieved level of SOC in adulthood plays a crucial role in regard to stability. More specifically, SOC is found to be particularly stable among high-SOC individuals. Age also seems to play a role in stability of SOC, but to a lesser extent.