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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Low Sense of Coherence (SOC) is a mirror of general anxiety and persistent depressive symptoms in adolescent girls - a cross-sectional study of a clinical and a non-clinical cohort

Eva C Henje Blom1*, Eva Serlachius1, Jan-Olov Larsson2, Töres Theorell3 and Martin Ingvar1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

2 Department of Woman and Child Health, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

3 The Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Sweden

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Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2010, 8:58  doi:10.1186/1477-7525-8-58

Published: 10 June 2010

Abstract

Background

The Sense of Coherence (SOC) scale is assumed to measure a distinct salutogenic construct separated from measures of anxiety and depression. Our aim was to challenge this concept.

Methods

The SOC-scale, Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI), Beck's Anxiety Inventory (BAI) , the emotional subscale of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ-em) and self-assessed health-related and physiological parameters were collected from a sample of non-clinical adolescent females (n = 66, mean age 16.5 years with a range of 15.9-17.7 years) and from female psychiatric patients (n = 73), mean age 16.8 years with a range of 14.5-18.4 years), with diagnoses of major depressive disorders (MDD) and anxiety disorders.

Results

The SOC scores showed high inverse correlations to BDI, BAI and SDQ-em. In the non-clinical sample the correlation coefficient was -0.86 to -0.73 and in the clinical samples -0.74 to -0.53 (p < 0.001). Multiple regression models showed that BDI was the strongest predictor of SOC in the non-clinical (beta coefficient -0.47) and clinical sample (beta coefficient -0.52). The total degree of explanation of self assessed anxiety and depression on the SOC variance estimated by multiple R2 = 0.74, adjusted R2 = 0.73 in the non-clinical sample and multiple R2 = 0.66, adjusted R2 = 0.65 in the clinical sample.

Multivariate analyses failed to isolate SOC as a separate construct and the SOC-scale, BDI, BAI and SDQ-em showed similar patterns of correlations to self-reported and physiological health parameters in both samples. The SOC-scale was the most stable measure over six months.

Conclusions

The SOC-scale did not appear to be a measure of a distinct salutogenic construct, but an inverse measure of persistent depressive symptoms and generalized social anxiety similar to the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD), dysthymic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) according to DSM-IV. These symptoms were better captured with SOC than by the specialized scales for anxiety and depression. Self-assessment scales that adequately identify MDD, dysthymic disorder, GAD and SAD need to be implemented. Comorbidity of these disorders is common in adolescent females and corresponds to a more severe symptomatology and impaired global function.