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Salutogenesis instead of pathogenesis - preventive health care

Salutogenesis instead of pathogenesis - about preventive health promotion instead of disease control

What does salutogenesis actually mean? And what is the difference to pathogenesis? You may have heard of these terms before and may not yet have a clear idea of what they mean. Put simply, we could also talk about preventive health promotion instead of disease control. Why shouldn't illnesses be specifically prevented instead of only combating them once they are there?

This article provides you with clear definitions of salutogenesis and pathogenesis, explains key differences and also contains some practical tips and examples to promote your health through salutogenesis.

Here is already a short Overview for you in advance:

  1. Definition
  2. Differences
  3. Prevention and early detection
  4. Advantages
  5. Patience and personal responsibility
  6. Criticism of the health care system
  7. Profit through illness
  8. Integration
  9. Practical tips and examples
  10. Closing words

What is meant by salutogenesis and pathogenesis?

Before we delve deeper into the topic, I would first like to give you a clear definition of the two terms.

What is salutogenesis?

The term salutogenesis comes from the Latin salus (health, well-being) and the Greek word genesis (origin, creation) and thus stands for the Emergence of health. The scientist Aaron Antonovsky developed the concept based on the question "Where does health come from and how can I strengthen it?". His result is an increase in resilience.

According to Antonovsky man is constantly moving back and forth between health and illness. Illness arises when you lose your balance. The basic idea of salutogenesis is that if you can fall out of balance, then you can also return to balance.

Various resources are available for this purpose. The most important resource is the Self-efficacyIn other words, the realization that we can do something for our own health and that we humans are by no means at the mercy of nature.

What is pathogenesis?

Pathogenesis derives from the terms patho (disease) and genesis (origin) and thus focuses on the Emergence of physical and mental diseasesas well as their causes and dangers. However, this means that only a small part of the "overall picture of health" is considered and the pathogenesis is quite limited.

Instead of body and Strengthen the immune system and thus to generate a resilient body, pathogenesis is all about Disease to avoid or treatby resorting to medication, vaccinations and sick leave. I am by no means saying that these are bad remedies per se and there are certainly cases in which drug treatment or sick leave make sense. However, many of these treatments and sick notes could be avoided by taking a salutogenetic view of health.

Difference salutogenesis and pathogenesis

Preventive disease care - swimmers in the lake

What is the difference between salutogenesis and pathogenesis? In principle, they are counterparts that together can provide a holistic picture of health and medicine. On their own, salutogenesis and pathogenesis are not sufficient.

The essential Difference of salutogenesis and pathogenesis is in focus. Salutogenesis deals with the production of health, while pathogenesis focuses on the development and control of diseases. This gives rise to opposing points of view.

Antonovsky, the founder of salutogenesis, compared health to a river. This river is full of dangers, such as whirlpools, stones and rapids. In pathogenesis, the doctor tries to pull the drowning person out of the river. Salutogenesis tries on the one hand to make people good swimmers so that they can save themselves. On the other hand, it tries to recognize why people fall into the river in the first place and to prevent this. Salutogenesis is therefore prevention rather than aftercare.

Difference between early detection and prevention

Early detection is merely the early recognition of disease patterns. Example: Skin cancer screening has nothing to do with prevention, as it does not prevent cancer, but merely detects it at an early stage.

Genuine prevention involves avoiding the occurrence of illnesses and brings us back to salutogenesis. Many diseases are unnecessary and can be avoided.

Notice: In the article nutrition-related diseases you can find out about the connection between nutrition and illness and learn how you can prevent or treat illnesses with the right diet.

Advantages of salutogenesis

Self care isn't selfish

The most important advantage of salutogenesis is, of course, that people can feel better if they do something for their health. This saves them suffering and sometimes even premature death.

If fewer people need to be treated, the Health care system relieved. This reduces healthcare costs and frees up capacity and beds for people who urgently need treatment. The freed-up capacity also increases the quality of treatment so that people recover more quickly.

Ownership: If everyone does something for their own health, then something is done for everyone's health.

Salutogenesis requires patience and personal responsibility

Salutogenesis does not happen overnight, but is a process. Similar to a marathon, the first steps are still a long way from the finish line and the finish line may not even be in sight. This is problematic nowadays. Because we all know that obesity, alcohol, smoking, etc. are harmful. Why do many people nevertheless not act accordingly - and stop smoking, for example?

We humans have never been so dependent on short-term rewards fixed as it is today. Everything can be ordered with a "one click" and delivered the next day, any information can be requested immediately via a search engine and videos, films and series are available "on demand" within a few seconds. However, patience is like a muscle and requires training. So the problem with salutogenesis is that promoting health is a long-term goal and people are currently losing their patience due to Instagram, Google & Co. and the short-term happiness of Cakes, cola and ready-made pizza than their long-term health.

Many people also simply rely on the government health care system. The pathogenesis is more in line with today's fast-moving credo: "A quick pill or injection and then you've taken care of your health enough." Whether this is an optimal and humane alternative, however, I will leave open for the moment.

Criticism of the health care system

Strictly speaking, our healthcare system shouldn't even be called a healthcare system. Disease control system is called. This is because the focus is clearly on fighting disease due to pathogenesis, so that the development of health has become a blind spot.

"If people knew how much thoughts affect their health, they would either think less or think differently."

Andreas Tenzer

This results in a Lack of education about how to stay healthy, as doctors are mainly trained in pathogenesis during their studies. As a result, the focus is on illness and people don't even consider that they could do something specifically for their health in advance.

Profit through illness

Money is made with illness, or to put it another way: Only a sick patient, is a profitable patient. I would like to show you how unnecessarily we spend money on the healthcare system with a small calculation. In 2019, expenditure on the healthcare system amounted to 411 billion euros.1 Of this, 80 billion euros are attributable to smoking-related costs2,3, 40 billion euros are generated by alcohol consumption4 and another 29 billion euros by obesity.5

The combined costs of smoking, alcohol and obesity amount to 149 billion euros, This corresponds to 36 percent of total healthcare expenditure and a considerable profit for clinics, doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. At the same time, the state and the media earn billions from cigarettes and alcohol through taxes and advertising revenue. No wonder that neither legislators, media groups nor the pharmaceutical industry are interested in ensuring that people are sufficiently informed about these risk factors.

"Anyone who believes that the pharmaceutical industry wants the health of the population also believes that the arms industry wants world peace!"


And another example of how it could be done differently. In ancient China, you paid the doctor as long as you were healthy. If you fell ill, you no longer paid him until you were healthy again.6 This would shift the financial incentive towards doctors and the pharmaceutical industry actually having an interest in long-term recovery. You can find more information on this in the report "Pharmaceutical industry, worse than the mafia!"

Example: Home birth or cesarean section

First of all, I would like to say that I do not want to demonize the caesarean section and that it does have a medical justification in certain cases. Nowadays, however, an unnecessarily large number of babies are born by caesarean section and there are financial reasons for this, among other things.

Depending on the federal state, a hospital earns EUR 1,477 to 1,638 for a natural birth and EUR 2,554 to 2,836 for a caesarean section. The fact that a natural birth takes up to 24 hours and a caesarean section only about 60 minutes also plays a role. This means that a hospital earns up to 40 times more from a caesarean section than from a natural birth. Of course, it should come as no surprise that clinics are increasingly recommending caesarean sections instead of natural births for financial reasons.

I may have drifted a little off topic with this example, but it shows incredibly well how the mechanisms in our healthcare system work. And: caesarean section babies do indeed have a 50 percent higher risk of asthma to fall ill. Thus, home birth has something to do with salutogenesis after all.7

Integration of pathogenesis and salutogenesis

Of course, conventional medicine is also important and has produced an incredible number of achievements. Emergency medicine and accident surgery save countless lives every day. So the aim is by no means to abolish conventional medicine. Instead, the aim should be to recognize conventional medicine as a Part of a holistic medicine to be integrated. Holistic medicine combines salutogenesis and pathogenesis so that people can be as healthy as possible and receive the best possible medical care.

Practical tips and examples for salutogenesis

Yoga as a valuable part of salutogenesis

By now you may be asking yourself what you can do practically to promote your health. Here are some Examples of practical salutogenesis:

I think with the list you have a solid start to a salutogenic and truly healthy lifestyle. In addition to the examples described so far, salutogenesis is also about Risk factorssuch as stress, smoking, alcohol, harmful environmental stimuli, digital or stressful media consumption. reduce.

Digression Psychosomatics: Psychosomatics is about recognizing deep psychological connections between illness and deriving measures for recovery. Illness is seen here as an expression of the soul or emotional life. In this way, the causes are treated effectively instead of working superficially with symptoms. Book Recommendation: Illness as a symbol* by Dr. Rüdiger Dahlke.

Preventive health promotion through salutogenesis

I hope that this article on salutogenesis and pathogenesis has helped you to better understand the two terms and the difference between them. If this article has inspired you to take responsibility for your health into your own hands, I look forward to receiving your comments, questions and criticism!

All the best,

Julian from CareElite

P.S.: If you now feel like doing something for your health, then you might find our articles "Living Vegan", "Sleep better" or our articles about Selenium, Vitamin B12 and many more Nutrients interesting.


1 Destatis: Health expenditure rose to over 400 billion euros in 2019,;jsessionid=A7172089E3F929B3ACC62CF4ED3E1ACF.live731. [09.12.2021].

2 German Cancer Research Center: The Cost of Smoking in Germany, [09.12.2021].

3 Der Tagesspiegel: Study: Smokers cost 80 billion euros a year, [09.12.2021].

4 Folgekosten in Deutschland - Direkte und indirekte Kosten des Alkoholkonsums, [09.12.2021].

5 MDR: Obesity is a widespread disease. This is how expensive obesity is, [09.12.2021].

6 Der Tagesspiegel: Doctors should be paid for staying healthy, [09.12.2021].

7 Science Daily: Caesarean Sections Associated With 50% Increased Risk Of Asthma In Child, Study Shows, [Dec 09, 2021].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Julian Hölzer

Julian Hölzer

Hi, my name is Julian and I am a trained vegan nutritionist. In 2016 I started to get involved with veganism and quickly learned how big an impact our diet has on the environment and how diverse plant-based diets can be. That's why I want to inspire you to get involved with veganism too.

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