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The importance of high self-esteem is generally linked to formative years, when it can help kids become confident adults. However, a new study from Concordia University in Montreal notes it is very important for older adults to maintain, if not improve, confidence levels, as this helps prevent health issues associated with the elderly.
The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
Overseen by psychology researchers Sarah Liu and Carsten Wrosch from Concordia University's Centre for Research in Human Development, the study examined how self-esteem changes as we age. If self-esteem decreases, the stress hormone cortisol increases. Researchers found this association "particularly strong" in participants with a history of depression or stress. However, if self-esteem increases, production of this stress hormone decreases.
The researchers measured cortisol levels, self-esteem, stress and depression symptoms in 147 participants ages 60 and over every 24 months for four years. Factors such as economic and relationship status and mortality risk were also included in the study.
Maintaining or improving self-esteem in older adults is believed to prevent health issues.
"Because self-esteem is associated with psychological well-being and physical health, raising self-esteem would be an ideal way to help prevent health problems later in life," says Liu. She suggests making new friends or doing whatever else helps promote feelings of self-worth.
"Improving self-esteem provides real health benefits in seniors," Liu adds. "The ultimate solution may be to prevent self esteem from declining."
Liu also noted future studies could analyze immune function in relation to self-esteem and aging. Previous studies have also found a link between self-esteem and healthy aging, including a 2012 study from the Chinese Academy of Sciences that examined reminiscence therapy as a way to increase self-esteem in nursing home patients.