What brings meaning to life in a highly secular society? A study on sources of meaning among Danes

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  • Heidi Frølund Pedersen
  • Marit Handegard Birkeland
  • Jens Søndergaard Jensen
  • Tatjana Schnell
  • Niels Christian Hvidt
  • Torgeir Sørensen
  • Peter la Cour

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This study presents psychometric properties of the Danish version of the Sources of Meaning and Meaning in Life Scale (SoMe-Da) and associations to socio-demographic and religious characteristics. Participants were 554 Danes, 66% women ranging in age between 15 and 91 years. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) suggested a five factor structure for the 26 sources if meaning. Construct validity within the SoMe-Da and between mental health variables were established. Generativity associated most strongly with meaningfulness followed by spirituality, attentiveness, and explicit religiosity. We found religious characteristics to be more strongly associated with meaningfulness than socio-demographic variables. Finally, we found distinct patterns of preferred sources of meaning between Christians, agnostics, and atheists. Christians and agnostics seemed to be more motivated by self-transcendance, whereas atheists may be more motivated by self-actualization. Results indicate that the SoMe-Da appears to be a valid instrument for measuring the content and degree of personal meaning in life.

JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)678-690
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018