Sense of coherence among the elderly in relation to their perceived life history in an Eriksonian perspective
Abstract The concept of 'sense of coherence' has been shown to be an important factor influencing wellbeing and health. In addition, remembrance of the past affects the wellbeing of the elderly. The present study investigated the relationship between sense of coherence and the perceived life history of elderly persons. We hypothesized that the manner in which the past is recalled and evaluated is influenced by, and in turn influences, the sense of coherence. Fifty-eight elderly individuals reported and evaluated their personal life stories, according to Erik H. Erikson's psychosocial stages of development. The sense of coherence was assessed using a Swedish translation of Antonovsky's original scale. Results indicated that the more positive the evaluation of the life history, the stronger the sense of coherence. Four of the Eriksonian developmental stages were found to be significantly correlated with sense of coherence: the conflicts about trust/mistrust, autonomy/shame, identity/identity diffusion, and intimacy/isolation. The sense of coherence factors for meaningfulness, manageability and comprehensibility were related to specific stages in the life history. Using a process perspective, three life span profiles were distinguished. One showed a generally low life-stage evaluation, and had significantly lower scores on the sense of manageability. This indicates that there are specific associations between the remembered past and sense of coherence.