Last month's Heath Letter from the Mayo Clinic had a feature article on "salutogenesis" (Latin for the "origins of health") which the clinic's newsletter says is an important new concept in the study of healthy aging. Usually we and the media talk about diseases and disabilities. Salutogenesis shifts the focus to what supports our health and well-being.
The concept was developed by Aaron Antonovsky , a medical sociologist, based on his study of the narratives of Holocaust survivors. He explored the factors that kept people – particularly those in tough situations – healthy. He found that a person’s ability to survive adversity depended on two key factors:
• Having a sense of coherence – being able to make sense of your life that helps manage stresses
• Having resources that help you understand and structure your life. These resources may be tangible – like money and housing. But they also can include factors such as life experience, intelligence, social support, and traditions.
Antonovsky felt that our sense of coherence was shaped by recognizing that:
• Life has a certain predictability – it can be understood.
• You possess sufficient resources to manage life’s challenges.
• Because your life makes sense and has meaning, it’s worth spending your energy t0 address the challenges.
A fourth factor – emotional closeness – was added later. Having a sense of connection to others and feeling part of a community are central to good health and well-being.
Antonovsky suggested that older adults – drawing on prior experience managing stressful situations – posses greater capacity to make sense of the world.
This approach really appealed to me.I read the Mayo Clinic newsletter piece on salutogenesis in late December, so when it came time for New Year’s resolutions I resolved to focus on th factors that contribute to the relatively good health that I enjoy as I approach my 85th birthday and my fifth anniversary of my Parkinson’s diagnosis.