Contact: Ilkka Piiroinen, MSc
For Release: Immediately
No matter what their life presents, people who enjoy a strong sense of positive well-being live longer than generally gloomier adults in comparable health, evidence shows.
A cluster of three qualities provides a key bridge that helps to explain the link between positive well-being and longer life, suggests a large new review of eight studies. These qualities are:
** The ability to accurately understand life events.
** Effectively coping with difficult life challenges through internal and outside resources.
** The conviction that life is meaningful.
These three qualities comprise what scientists call “Sense of Coherence” (SOC), and there are written tests that measure how strong adults are in SOC. The first research review ever published on the relationship between SOC and lifespan appears in the July-August issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, journal of the American Psychosomatic Society. The review included eight studies with 48,138 participants from Europe and Israel, followed from eight to 29-l/2 years, depending on the study.
Adults in the lowest one-third for SOC had about a 20 percent higher risk of dying than those in the top one-third, who had strong SOC. That’s a significant difference. It’s about the same advantage in longer life gained by people who are normal weight compared to overweight adults, and by non-smokers compared to light smokers, says lead study author Ilkka Piiroinen, MSc, a PhD candidate in Epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland. The eight studies controlled for varied main risk factors known to affect mortality, he adds.
No single cause of death was linked with low SOC across the eight studies. “It seems to influence health in general, and eventually mortality,” says Piiroinen. Genetics might play a role in how SOC affects specific aspects of health, he suggests. That awaits further study of the issue.
Earlier scientific studies have found that, compared to those with strong SOC, people with weak SOC are less optimistic and less confident that they can help shape their environment, as well as having lower self-esteem and social skills. Interestingly, some of the studies find that work-related stress is tied to shorter life, but this link disappears when the stressed worker has strong SOC. “It’s not the stress, it’s how well they manage it,” he explains.
And SOC is not necessarily a done deal, constant across the lifespan. “We can perhaps change our sense of coherence over time,” Piiroinen notes. “It’s possible that we can develop it so it becomes stronger, or it can become weaker.” Piiroinen’s next study is exploring how possible changes in SOC over time affect the risk of dying.
Our current historic challenge of coping with COVID-19 underscores the need for us to search for effective ways of managing stress and also finding meaning in life, he says.
The American Psychosomatic Society (APS) (http://www.psychosomatic.org), founded in 1942, is an international multidisciplinary academic society that conducts an annual scientific meeting and educational programs. Psychosomatic Medicine is its scientific journal. The membership of over 700 is composed of academic scientists and clinicians in medicine, psychiatry, epidemiology, health psychology and allied health services. The mission of the APS is “to advance and integrate the scientific study of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in health and disease.”