Salutogenesis’ utility as a theory for guiding health promotion practice: the case of young people’s well-being
Twenty years have passed since the publication of the seminal paper ‘The salutogenic model as a theory to guide health promotion’ (Health Promot Int 1996;11:11–18.), in which Antonovsky proposed salutogenesis and its central construct sense of coherence as a way of boosting the theoretical basis for health promotion activities. Since then there has been a notable amount of conceptual and empirical work carried out to further explore its significance. The aim of this paper is to critically assess the current theoretical status of salutogenesis and its utility to advance effective health promotion practice for young people. The assessment was carried out in the context of contemporary international policy agendas on well-being. An analytic framework was developed using the previous literature on the definition and function of theory. This organizing framework comprised four criteria: description, explanation, prediction and measurability. The paper concludes with a perspective on the status of salutogenesis as a theory and how it can be further developed. Specifically, the critical assessment highlighted that salutogenesis has been subjected to considerable empirical testing over the last few decades resulting in convincing evidence of the relevance and subsequent advancement of the idea. However, less emphasis seems to have been placed on a systematic process of testing and iteration to develop its theoretical basis. The paper identifies a number of aspects that should be developed to support the progression of salutogenesis to the next level. A research–practice cycle approach is proposed that can facilitate that important next step.