Aims: To explore the stability of sense of coherence (SOC) over time in a normal population and to examine its relation to gender and psychosocial factors.
Methods: The Northern Sweden MONICA Project population surveys were performed in 1994 and 1999. A cohort of 1,254 subjects participating in both surveys answered questions about experiences of disease, perceived health, marital status, psychosocial factors, and Antonovsky's SOC scale with 13 items.
Results: The mean SOC score showed a decrease in the five-year follow-up and those with identified disease and the oldest age group (45-74 years) had the largest decrease of the SOC score. People with the lowest SOC scores in 1994 had the largest decrease during the period. Men and women shared a similar pattern regarding the decrease in SOC over time. The impact of individual social changes during the study period showed that both men and women who had experienced loss of perceived good health and high social support had the largest decrease. Furthermore, women seemed to be more affected by changes than men.
Conclusions: We found that SOC was only stable for those with initially high levels of SOC. For other people, individual conditions and societal changes influenced their SOC. Further longitudinal studies in normal populations are needed to investigate the stability of SOC scores.