Mittelmark, M. B., Bauer, G. F., Vaandrager, L., Pelikan, J. M., Sagy, S., Eriksson, M., ... & Meier Magistretti, C. (2022). The handbook of salutogenesis.
Positive Psychology and Salutogenesis
The positive psychology movement has produced new conceptual frameworks, instruments to measure human strengths, and increased interest in topics such as optimism, hope, locus of control, creativity, self-esteem, emotional intelligence, empathy, humour, and gratitude. Positive psychologists have also endeavoured to apply this new work in educational, health, and workplace contexts. Moreover, community researchers and public policy planners have suggested transforming positive psychology from an individual level to a societal level as well.
Both positive psychology and the salutogenic paradigm challenged mainstream thought about the pathological focus of sociology in the 1970s, and psychology in the 2000s respectively, to consider the resources of healthy functioning. In this regard, both approaches seem to be adopting the same view. However, there was a difference between the two approaches. As clinical psychology had traditionally adopted diagnostic language and a focus on pathology, positive psychology turned its attention to the normal category and positive functioning, and by doing so implicitly condoned the dichotomy between the normal and the abnormal. Antonovsky’s salutogenesis paradigm, on the other hand, offered a new definition of the ease–dis-ease continuum in the medical discipline, thus dissolving the dichotomy between illness and wellness.
It appears that despite their different theoretical roots, the integration of the two paradigms—salutogenesis and positive psychology—have stronger explanatory power in promoting health and well-being. We trust that positive psychologists will benefit from a deeper appreciation of the SOC construct in two ways: firstly, in understanding how social structures shape the strength of SOC; and secondly, in how SOC provides the cognitive mechanisms within the individual that mediates the relationship between positive psychology constructs such as hope, optimism, gratitude, and well-being. Finally, there are two ways in which salutogenic researchers can benefit from positive psychology. Firstly, positive psychology offers a new and evidencebased means for putting salutogenesis into practice at both micro- and macro-levels. However, the second and most important contribution of positive psychology is in reminding salutogenic researchers that their evaluation of outcomes related to SOC need not be pathological. We need to move beyond outcomes such as the absence of depression, reduction in hostility, and the like, to include the presence of happiness, development of empathy, and more. In this way, we begin to see greater convergence between the two disciplines and the emergence of a salutogenic positive psychology.