The new study led by psychology researchers Sarah Liu and Carsten Wrosch from Concordia University’s Centre for Research in Human Development found that boosting self-esteem can buffer potential health threats in seniors.
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 worthless. 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 Liu. The new study has been published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.