What is Fortigenesis?

A brief overview of Fortigenesis

Our trading name, and the work we do, is inspired by the work of the late Professor Deo Strümpfer, a pioneer in positive occupational health psychology, Professor Extraordinary of Psychology, University of Pretoria and Professor Emeritus of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of Cape Town, South Africa. However, Prof. Strümpfer’s work was inspired the late Professor Aaron Antonovsky, a sociologist and academic whose work concerned the relationship between stress, health and well-being.

In 1979, Prof. Antonovsky shifted the focus of research from illness/pathology, towards a new paradigm focusing on health and wellness, which he termed “Salutogenesis”, meaning the “origins of health”. The concepts within this paradigm include a Sense of Coherence, Locus of control (LOC) and Self-Efficacy, for example, with a focus on the successful management of stress and psychological wellness.

In 1995, Prof. Strümpfer wanted to broaden Salutogenesis to not only include health and wellness, but to also include strengths. Hence, he established a new field of research and practice, which he termed “Fortigenesis” meaning “the origins of strength”. Consequently, Prof. Strümpfer is referred to as the ‘father’ of Fortigenesis.

In 1999, Prof. Strümpfer stated that “stressors and adversity are an integral part of the human condition”. He believed that we have strengths which enable us to endure, and even transcend “this condition” which in turn, produce “a strengthening and toughening” of a person (Strümpfer, 1999). Having strength and courage in adversity or pain is what Prof. Strümpfer (1995) refers to as “fortitude”.

Although Prof. Strümpfer's research focused on flourishing and the role of resilience in coping with organisational stressors in the workplace, he also pointed out that the perspective of the fortogenic approach, does not mean denying the “extensive roles played by fearful, painful and hurtful emotions” (Strümpfer, 2006b).

In 1997, Wissing and Van Eeden called for a focus not only on researching strengths but also in developing ways to enhance and develop human capacities and they termed this field ‘Psychofortigenesis’. However, the terms Fortigenesis, Fortology, and Psychofortigenesis and Psychofortology are used interchangeably (Wissing, Van Eeden, 1997).

In 2003, Prof. Strümpfer applied Fortigenesis to the concept of burnout, to move it in a fortigenic direction, that is, examining how fortigeneic concepts can enhance resistance to burnout, and also assist those who have experienced burnout, to recover from it.


Antonovsky A. (1979). Health, stress and coping. San Francisco: Jossey‐Bass.

Strümpfer, D. J. W. (2006b). Positive Emotions, Positive Emotionality and Their Contribution
to Fortigenic Living: A Review. South African Journal of Psychology, 36 (1), 144-167.

Strümpfer, D. J. W.(2003). Resilience and burnout: A stitch that could save nine. South
African Journal of Psychology, 33 (2), 69-79.

Strümpfer, D. J. W (1999). Psychosocial resilience in adults. Studia Psychologica, 41, 89–104

Strümpfer, D. J. W (1995). The origins of health and strength: From salutogenesis to
fortigenesis. South African Journal of Psychology, 25 (2), 81-89.

Wissing, M. P. & Van Eeden, C. (1997, September). Psychological well-being: A fortigenic
conceptualization and empirical clarification. Paper presented at the 3rd Annual Congress of
the Psychological Society of South Africa. Durban, South Africa.