Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

Is a sense of coherence associated with prolonged grief, depression, and satisfaction with life after bereavement? A longitudinal study

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  • Paul A Boelen, Utrecht University, ARQ National Psychotrauma Center, Netherlands
  • Maja O'Connor

There is growing interest in psychological factors maintaining healthy functioning following adverse events. One such variable is a sense of coherence (SOC), an orientation to life, comprising manageability, comprehensibility, and meaningfulness. Little research has examined the role of SOC in adjustment to bereavement. The present longitudinal study examined the role of SOC in recovery from loss, in a Danish sample (N = 221) of elderly spousally bereaved people. The aim was twofold. First, we aimed to establish the optimal measurement model of SOC, evaluating the fit of different factor-solutions for the 29-item SOC-29 scale and 13-item SOC-13 scale, using confirmatory factor analysis. Second, we sought to examine associations of emerging SOC factors with symptoms-levels of prolonged grief disorder (PGD) and depression, and with satisfaction with life, assessed concurrently (at six months post-loss) and at two consecutive time points, 13 and 18 months post-loss. Results showed that the three-factor model of the SOC-13 (with distinct manageability, comprehensibility, and meaningfulness factors) provided a good fit to our data. With respect to our second aim, analyses showed that the three SOC factors were associated with concurrently assessed PGD, depression, and satisfaction with life. In the analyses predicting outcomes at Wave 2 and Wave 3, meaningfulness (but not manageability and comprehensibility) predicted some of the outcomes, above and beyond baseline scores of the outcomes. Findings suggest that meaningfulness may increase healthy, and attenuate unhealthy responses to loss. Helping bereaved people to experience life's demands as worthy of investment and engagement is likely an important target for bereavement care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Psychology & Psychotherapy
Pages (from-to)1599-1610
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

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    Research areas

  • bereavement, depression, factorial validity, grief, sense of coherence

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