The salutogenic model of health focuses on managing our health through the lens of life’s guaranteed disequilibrium—meaning stress and difficulty are a given and an expected component of living. The goal, therefore, is coping and prospering throughout life’s circumstances, while preserving well-being and preventing disease. Salutogenesis is the study of factors that promote health rather than the study of pathogenesis or what causes disease. The originator of this model was Yale educated Aaron Antonovsky, PhD (1923-1994), who studied women that had suffered extreme hardship and somehow were able to subsist as emotionally healthy, well adults into old age. Antonovsky suggested the most salient factor among the women, was their ability to cultivate a sense of meaning despite horrendous circumstances, allowing their health and well-being to persist.
We don’t need to experience staggering difficulties to prepare for and embrace the overall ebb and flow of life’s journey. The question becomes, how can we create a salutogenic culture—one in which resilience and thriving are enduring characteristics despite the circumstances? The scientific literature provides a litany of actions and health behaviors that enhance coping, while preventing disease—please note, this is a smattering of the many and they are accessible and primarily free of charge.
We do know that stress is prolific in our current culture, making stress management a pressing public health issue. In 2022, 51% of Americans reported mental health challenges as a critical health matter, up from 35% in 2021. The American Institute of Stress reports that 77% of people experience stress that affects their physical health and 73% of those surveyed say stress affects their mental health. To turn the tide towards a salutogenic culture, we can lead ourselves and others towards health preservation and disease prevention, incorporating the many uplifting and accessible behaviors, while deepening our sense of connection and meaning.