Self-rated health among university students in relation to sense of coherence and other personality traits

Scand J Caring Sci. 2003 Dec;17(4):347-57. doi: 10.1046/j.0283-9318.2003.00234.x.


The aim of the study was to determine students' self-rated health in relation to sense of coherence and other personality traits. A cross-sectional descriptive design was used with questionnaires as the means of data collection. The study population comprised a randomized stratified sample of students from a small university in southern Sweden. Ethical approval was obtained from the vice chancellor, and the issues of informed consent, confidentiality, privacy and self-determination were respected. Two instruments were used for data collection; the 29-item Sense of Coherence (SOC) scale, and an instrument created for this study, named Personality and Health Instrument, containing 52 questions. Self-rated health was estimated by inverse number of health complaints. A factor analysis identified seven factors related to personality traits; the three most important were hardiness, positive affect/optimism and Type A personality. The personality trait variables were tested for correlation with each other as well as with self-rated health. The mean score for SOC was similar for female and male students, but a positive association between SOC and self-rated health was found only among women. Optimism was associated with less health complaints among female students. Type A personality was associated with poorer health both among women and men. The personality traits SOC, positive affect/optimism, hardiness and alienation showed high internal correlations. The SOC scale is discussed in relation to gender specificity and in relation to methodological and conceptual confounding. Further research is needed to explore the relation between SOC, optimism, hardiness, hostility and health. The significance of the study is that it raises questions about the validity and specificity of the SOC instrument and provides ideas for future research to develop the sense of coherence concept and instrument.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Attitude to Health
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Personality*
  • Self Concept*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sex Factors
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards
  • Sweden
  • Universities*