Background Samis are indigenous people in north Europe. In the territory called Sápmi (Lapland), reindeer herding is the traditional base for the Sami economy. The relation between living conditions and positive health of the Swedish Samis has been sparsely studied. As health is closely linked to sense of coherence (SOC), an understanding of the background factors to SOC may contribute knowledge that might be useful in promoting living conditions and health. Methods The study examines relations between the level of SOC and background factors from surveys in a Sami population (n=613) in comparison to a non-Sami population (n=525) in Sweden, and in comparison between 2 subsamples of Samis, that is, herders and non-herders. Results There are more similarities than differences between the Sami and non-Sami populations. However, dividing the Sami population, reindeer herders had significantly lower SOC, and in specific the subcomponent manageability, that is, less ability to use available resources to meet different demands in life, compared to non-herders. Conclusions In addition to age and health, predictors of SOC are related to the life form of reindeer husbandry and the belonging to the herding community.