Questioning the stability of sense of coherence--the impact of socio-economic status and working conditions in the Canadian population

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2003 Sep;38(9):475-84. doi: 10.1007/s00127-003-0654-z.


Background: Much debate exists about the stability of the sense of coherence measure. This study examined changes in sense of coherence (SOC), and the variables associated with these changes, over a 4-year period, in a representative sample of the Canadian labour force (n=6,790).

Methods: Two methods were used to assess change in SOC: (1) Change outside of that which could be considered as indistinguishable from measurement error, and (2) Change of more than 10%, which was originally proposed by Antonovksy, the scales designer.

Results: Over the study period, 35.4% of the population reported changes in SOC outside the range we consider possible due to measurement error, with 58% reporting change greater than 10%. Unskilled occupations were associated with declines in SOC, with household income demonstrating a curvilinear relationship with decline in SOC in the female population only. None of the variables used predicted increases in SOC.

Conclusions: Given the degree of change in SOC, and the representativeness of the study sample, we suggest that SOC has a large state component. Given this lack of stability, we recommend caution if using the SOC to represent a stable global orientation within a causal context.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Class*
  • Social Environment
  • Social Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires