Indicators of Self-Esteem and Well-Being Vary Across Cultures

The study of psychological well-being has exploded in recent years. Research has looked at virtually every factor that could possibly influence psychological well-being to examine helpful or detrimental effects. Genetic, environmental, social, and individual traits, as well as demographic factors, have all been exhaustively studied. There is evidence supporting higher psychological well-being in married individuals when compared to nonmarried people. Additionally, higher income earners tend to be more satisfied with their lives and have increased well-being compared to individuals of the lowest socioeconomic status. But there has been little attention given to how these factors vary across cultures. This is a significant issue because, in many countries, income, marital status, and education are viewed quite differently than they are in Western societies.

In Pakistan, the education and career path of women are not valued in the same way they are in the United States and European countries. Therefore, it can be theorized that perhaps these two factors do not affect well-being in the same way for women in Pakistan. In an effort to determine whether indicators of self-esteem vary globally, Muhammad Azam Tahir of the Department of Psychology at the University of Balochistan in Pakistan recently led a study that looked at several demographic factors and how they affect psychological well-being and self-esteem in a sample of 200 Pakistani women.

Tahir examined marital status, age, level of education, income, and employment status in the women and found that there were stark differences between how these traits affected Western women compared to the women in this sample. Marriage, which has shown to increase well-being in Western societies, did not improve well-being or self-esteem in the Pakistani women. Also, level of education or employment status had relatively little effect, and women with high incomes did not report increased levels of well-being or self-esteem. Tahir believes that women who are highly educated or embedded in successful careers do not receive the same respect in Pakistan that they would elsewhere. Furthermore, even though some may report high incomes, they are rarely given permission to spend the money on themselves. In Pakistan, male dominance, especially in marriages, results in women having little control over how their money is spent, even if they are the ones earning it. “It is concluded from the present study that women in Pakistan have psychological well-being and self-esteem problems,” said Tahir, who hopes that future work will study additional provinces throughout the Middle East in order to capture a clearer picture of the psychological well-being of women and perhaps lead to ways to improve it.

Muhammad, Azam Tahir. (2013). Determinants of psychological well-being and self-esteem in married and unmarried women. Pakistan Journal of Clinical Psychology 11.2 (2012): n/a. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Kelli


    March 22nd, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    I would take a pretty good guess that a lot of how women view themselves in other parts of the world plays very heavily on how women as a whole are viewed in their society.

    If these are women who have been led to believe that they are on a lower caste than men just because of their sex, then no matter how much money or education they receive then it is hard to block all that out and forget about it. they are always going to suffer from feeling less than men and as a result they are going to lack the confidence that they will need to come to ever believe otherwise.

  • vanna


    March 23rd, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    So true. The things that we would consider an advantage here in the US others in other parts of the world could see as a curse. It’s all about where you are when you are making these determinations of what is good and what is desirable, because the things that I want out of life could be far different than what women in other parts of the world would see as “making it.”

  • Casey


    March 25th, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Interesting study… I would’ve thought the parameters of self-esteem would be the same everywhere… But it seems like things do change depending on your culture and the society around you…

    While it may be so due to societal ideals or due to the preceding situation in that part of the world, one thing is for sure- these differences are definitely going to make the job of a psychologist tougher.

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