By Karen D'Souza The Mercury News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A new study reveals that self-esteem seems to peak around age 60 and that uplifting feeling may well last for an entire decade.
The Mercury News
In our youth-obsessed culture, where ageism has never been stronger and looking younger is next to godliness, it may be easy to assume young people feel happier than older ones. Nope. According to science, at least one thing gets better with age and that's your self-esteem.
In fact, a paper published recently in the journal Psychological Bulletin, self-esteem seems to peak around age 60 and that uplifting feeling may well last for an entire decade. So maybe 60 really is the new 40?
"Midlife is, for many adults, a TIME of highly stable life circumstances in domains such as relationships and work.
Moreover, during middle adulthood, most individuals further invest in the social roles they hold, which might promote their self-esteem," study co-author Ulrich Orth, a professor of psychology at the University of Bern in Switzerland, told TIME. "For example, people take on managerial roles at work, maintain a satisfying relationship with their spouse or partner, and help their children to become responsible and independent adults."
Researchers examined 191 articles about self-esteem, which included data from almost 165,000 people, for a comprehensive look at how self-esteem changes with age, exploring different demographics and age groups.
Apparently, self-esteem begins to rise between ages 4 and 11, as children develop and revel in a sense of independence.
Those feelings level off in the teenage years and hold steady until mid-adolescence. After that, self-esteem grows substantially until age 30, then more gradually throughout middle adulthood, before peaking around age 60.
Unfortunately, sometime after age 70, it seems to take a hit, a factor which gets more worrying as you approach 90. It should also be noted that women tended to have lower self-esteem than men in young adulthood, but gain parity as the decades wear on.
Sadly, it also appears that people in happy relationships experience the same drop in self-esteem during old age as people in unhappy relationships. So much for romantic bliss.
"Although they enter old age with higher self-esteem and continue to have higher self-esteem as they age, they decline in self-esteem to the same extent as people in unhappy relationships," said co-author Kali H. Trzesniewski, PhD, of the University of Western Ontario, as the American Psychological Association noted. "Thus, being in a happy relationship does not protect a person against the decline in self-esteem that typically occurs in old age."
The upside is that the years between 60 and 70, generally speaking, appear to be as golden as they have been made out to be.