Having a healthy dose of self-esteem could result in better job positions, happier marriages and overall improved life satisfactions — or could it? According to a new study led by Ulrich Orth of the University of Basel, self-esteem is a cause of positive life outcomes, not an effect. He said, “Whereas some studies suggest that global self-esteem—a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her worth—has no important influence on relationship success, economic welfare, and health; other studies suggest that self-esteem has a significant impact on important life outcomes.” Orth, along with Richard W. Robins and Keith F. Widaman of the University of California, Davis, analyzed data from 1,824 individuals that was gathered over 12 years. The participants ranged in age from 16 to 97 and were part of a larger study looking at how self-esteem affected various life measures, including job happiness, occupation, relationship status, affect, depression, income, and overall health.
The team found that self-esteem increased from young adulthood to middle aged and evened out by age 50. After that, the level of self-esteem of the participants then decreased. Next, the researchers realized that self-esteem was a cause, not an effect, of life circumstances. This was particularly important as it related to depression. “As mentioned, the largest effects emerged for positive affect, negative affect, and depression, as illustrated by the distance between trajectories for individuals with low versus high self-esteem,” said the team. “In contrast, for relationship satisfaction, job satisfaction, and health, the self-esteem effects on the level of the trajectories were smaller.” However, the team noted that self-esteem and its influence on mood may play a role in many other areas of one’s life. “Whereas the effect is very small for positive affect, the effect is larger for depression. For depression, controlling for self-esteem attenuated the decline from adolescence to middle adulthood and also attenuated the increase from middle adulthood to old age,” they said.
Orth, U., Robins, R. W., & Widaman, K. F. (2011, September 26). Life-Span Development of Self-Esteem and Its Effects on Important Life Outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025558
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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