This is the first longitudinal study investigating salutogenesis including SOC in psoriasis patients. We evaluated the ability of factors such as positive attitudes and perceptions related to illness to predict the change in SOC. The present study revealed that SOC improved significantly from before to after climate therapy including patient education in people with psoriasis. We also found that positive and active engagement in life, emotional representations and illness coherence dimension predicted the change in SOC. People with higher levels of positive and active engagement and illness coherence at the baseline had greater improvement in their SOC score following patient education. Further the change in SOC was also significantly associated to change in positive and active engagement and emotional representations.
In the present study, the mean SOC score at the baseline was 62.7 points. This value is lower than that observed in other comparable groups, such as a Swedish general population sample (mean 68.2 points) (Nilsson et al. 2010) and another Norwegian patient group (mean 67 points) (Veenstra & Hofoss 2003), suggesting that there is potential for improving these psoriasis patients’ SOC. Furthermore, SOC was significantly associated with age and education at baseline. Although the correlations in the present study is low, it is in line with earlier research showing that SOC tend to increase with age (Erikson & Lindstrøm 2005) and that education and knowledge are linked to a stronger SOC (Antonovsky 1987). The present study also supports results from other studies showing that SOC is changeable after intervention (Langeland et al. 2006;Yamazaki et al. 2011). (Antonovsky 1979) developed the theory of salutogenesis to counterbalance the emphasis in medicine on pathogenesis, risk factors, and diseases. Antonovsky posed the question “What explains movement towards the health pole of the ease/disease continuum?” (Antonovsky 1996). This is the opposite of the question of which factors create disease. Antonovsky’s answer to his salutogenic question was formulated in terms of the SOC and GRR. Thus, to improve their SOC, people must experience a positive interaction between GRR and SOC. The experience of everyday availability of and interaction with health care personnel, and use of GRR such as new knowledge (education), increased social support, and action competence may contribute to the improvement in SOC observed during patient education and climate therapy. The therapy may provide patients with new experiences of comprehensibility, manageability, and meaning through education and counselling by, and interactions with, health care providers and fellow patients. It is reasonable to think that modification of SOC can occur in settings where health care professionals have long and consistent contact with patients, as is the case with the 3-week patient education and climate therapy programme. However the improvement in SOC was relatively small and decreased again after 3 months. Although the patient education focuses on salutogenic factors such as physical activity, healthy eating and management of psoriasis, it is reasonable to think that with a more explicit salutogenic approach with emphasis on active adaptation in the interplay between SOC and use of GRR, the improvement in SOC could have been stronger and possibly sustained. Nevertheless the relatively small change in SOC may support the hypothesis that SOC is a rather stable quality of an individual after 30 years of age, with only minor fluctuations thereafter (Antonovsky 1987), suggesting that the improvement in SOC in the present study is due to normal variations. However, Antonovsky emphasises that his position is a hypothesis, based on theoretical considerations, and is not based on empirical evidence (Antonovsky 1996). Another hypothesis, based on both theoretical considerations and empirical evidence, is that the strength of SOC may be continuously influenced by external events and internal reactions to these events (Langeland et al. 2006;Langeland & Wahl 2009;Yamazaki et al. 2011;Forsberg et al. 2010). Therefore, more research is required to establish whether SOC can improve in the long term as a result of major changes in life experiences, such as a specific type of therapy with follow-up interventions. The present study indicates the need for follow-up interventions that include a more explicit salutogenic focus, which could promote SOC over the longer term. A methodological limitation of this study is the lack of a control group, which limits any conclusions about cause and effect that may be drawn from this study. Further, 89 patients did not want to participate in the study and we had no opportunity to evaluate the reasons why. Hence, we do not know whether or not this has influenced the results.
People with higher levels of illness coherence at the baseline had greater improvement in SOC following patient education in climate therapy. However in the present study change in illness coherence was not significantly linked to change in SOC so we have to be cautious with our interpretation. Illness coherence assesses the extent to which an individual’s illness provides an opportunity for the patient’s coherent understanding of the illness (Moss-Morris et al. 2002). Bäärnhielm (2005) found that illness coherence relates to SOC through the process of restructuring illness meaning, possibly by constructing coherence between experiences, expression, and past and new meanings given to illness. This process helps strengthen SOC, and may thus be significant for recovery after illness. Nevertheless it is reasonable to think that any change in illness coherence will take time before it will influence the SOC because coherent understanding of the illness and integrate this knowledge may be a longer learning process as suggested by Bäärnhielm (2005). Both baseline and change in positive and active engagement were linked to change in SOC and thus seems to represent an important factor for promoting SOC. This is not a surprising result since this dimension assesses motivation to be active by engaging and reengaging in life–fulfilling activity (Osborne et al. 2007) and is thus an important salutogenic factor. In addition change in emotional representations predicted change in SOC. Emotional representations include negative feelings related to the illness such as depression and anxiety. Earlier research have also revealed that SOC is strongly and negatively associated to emotional distress including anxiety, anger, and depression (Erikson & Lindstrøm 2006) and that SOC is specially related to mental health (Erikson & Lindstrøm 2005).
Altogether illness coherence, positive and active engagement in life and emotional representations, identified as predictors in the present study, may be considered as important components of GRR and thus come into a positive interplay with SOC, by creating good and possibly substantial growth experiences. This is supported by Moss-Morris et al. (2002) showing that illness perception and symptoms can predict different aspects of adaptation to and recovery after chronic disease suggesting that “illness reality” for each individual should play an integral and important role as a collaborative resource alongside other treatments. Further one previous study found a strong positive correlation between reasons for living, such as enjoyment and support in life, and SOC (Yamazaki et al. 2011). Lutz (2009) suggested that SOC may be seen as one’s self-perceived capacity for engagement over time. Participation is a key factor in the theory, and the meaning dimension illuminates this; that is, participation in shaping outcomes and good inner feelings increases SOC (Antonovsky 1987;Sagy & Antonovsky 2000). Thus, patient education in the context of climate therapy that include a focus on positive and active engagement, emotional well-being and illness coherence, may provide the opportunity for the patient to comprehend and integrate the interplay between SOC and such as these GRR.