Improving Self-Esteem of Seniors Can Prevent Health
Confidence an important buffer to the stress of old
age, Concordia University study shows
March 12, 2014 - The importance of boosting
self-esteem is normally associated with the trials and tribulations of
adolescence. But new research from Concordia University shows that it’s
even more important for older adults to maintain and improve upon those
confidence levels as they enter their twilight years. That’s because
boosting self-esteem can help buffer potential health threats typically
associated with the transition into older adulthood.
While previous research focused on self-esteem
levels, Liu and Wrosch examined changes to self-esteem within each
individual over time. They found that if an individual’s self-esteem
decreased, the stress hormone cortisol increased - and vice versa. This
association was particularly strong for participants who already had a
history of stress or depression.
The research team met with 147 adults aged 60 and
over to measure their cortisol levels, self-esteem, stress, and symptoms
of depression every 24 months over four years. Self-esteem was measured
through standard questions, such as whether the participant felt
The study also took into account personal and
health factors like economic status, whether the participant was married
or single, and mortality risk.
Results showed that maintaining or even improving
self-esteem could help prevent health problems.
“Because self-esteem is associated with
psychological wellbeing and physical health, raising self-esteem would
be an ideal way to help prevent health problems later in life,” says
While it’s easier said than done to tell an older
adult to “go out and make more friends, or simply enhance their feelings
of self-worth,” says Liu from a practical standpoint, such steps improve
“Improving self-esteem provides real health
benefits in seniors,” says Liu. “The ultimate solution may be to prevent
self-esteem from declining.”
While this study looked at cortisol levels, Liu
says future research could examine immune function to further illuminate
how increases in self-esteem can contribute to patterns of healthy
>> This study was co-authored by Jens Pruessner
(McGill University) and Gregory Miller (Northwestern University). The
research was funded in part by grants from
of Health Research awarded to Carsten Wrosch.