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Friday, April 12, 2024

UC Davis researchers find long-term benefits of having high self-esteem

A research review discovered multiple positive long-term benefits of self-esteem that varied distinctly from the known negative effects


By MONICA MANMADKAR — science@theaggie.org


In a recent study at the University of Bern and UC Davis, researchers suggested that having high self-esteem can influence people’s lives in a positive manner. 

Fascinated by self-esteem as a graduate student, Dr. Richard W. Robbins, a professor in the Department of Psychology at UC Davis, and Dr. Uli Orth, a co-author of this research review and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Bern, conducted many studies examining the relationship between self-esteem and success. Robbins stated that many psychologists also believe that there are several potential costs to having high self-esteem.

“In fact, some psychologists even claim that high self-esteem has a ‘dark side’ because it can lead (in their view) to narcissistic traits that are toxic for relationships and other life outcomes,” Robbins said via email. “My coauthor, Uli Orth, and I disagree with this claim, so we decided to write an article that reviews and summarizes the very large body of research examining the consequences of high vs. low self-esteem.”

The research review went over empirical evidence on the benefits of having high self-esteem. Robbins and Orth delved into the evidence in six categories: social relationships, education, work, mental health, physical health and antisocial behavior. Through their review, they were able to find that self-esteem is beneficial in most of these domains, which holds true throughout different stages of life, genders and ethnicities. 

“The findings of our review indicate that high self-esteem helps individuals adapt to and succeed in a variety of life domains, including having more satisfying relationships, performing better at school and work, enjoying improved mental and physical health, and refraining from antisocial behavior, [which refers] to delinquency in adolescence and unethical or criminal behavior in adulthood,” Robbins said. 

Although the findings did not change across different demographics, the benefits of self-esteem may be moderated by other factors, Orth said. 

“For example, having high self-esteem could be more important in some social contexts than in others,” Orth said via email. “More specifically, if an individual lacks a supportive social network, having high self-esteem could be particularly important.”

Orth also explained that the available longitudinal evidence suggests that high self-esteem leads to more satisfying relationships, improved health and better performance at school and work, whereas low self-esteem is a risk factor for problematic outcomes in these life domains.

Looking to future research in this field, Robbins would like to provide stronger evidence that high self-esteem actually causes the positive outcomes detailed in the research review. To prove this conclusively, researchers would need to create interventions to increase self-esteem and then test whether people whose self-esteem has been boosted by an intervention program do better in various life domains than people whose self-esteem was not improved through the program. 


Written by: Monica Manmadkar — science@theaggie.org



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