Self-Esteem in Young Adults

Self-esteem is a key part of healthy development.

Self-esteem is often defined as the entire aggregated opinion of oneself at a given moment in time. Although the early years of life are perceived as especially important for the growth of healthy self-esteem, it evolves slowly with life experiences, and this is especially as a function of social interactions. A great body of research in children and youths has displayed the associations amongst poor self-esteem and a broad range of negative outcomes comprising academic challenges, internalizing mental illnesses (e.g., depression, suicide attempts, anxiety, and eating disorders), externalizing mental illnesses (e.g., violence and aggressive actions), and risky behaviors (e.g., alcohol and tobacco consumption and unsafe sexual behaviors) (Arsandaux et al., 2021). Certain periods in life and major transitions might also represent certain threats to self-esteem, such as adolescence or starting university. Greater self-esteem predicts greater professional prestige, university education, family income, and job appreciation and reduced unemployment.

In their study, Arsandaux et al. (2021) examined the association among self-esteem assessed either in youth or in adulthood with adult educational and psychosocial outcomes (p. 106). One hundred and thirty-one middle school students were chosen based on their experience of academic challenge or success, and both of these groups were picked equally from regular or low-performing schools. Ten years later, 100 of these persons participated in a follow-up evaluation of academic, socio-professional, and health-based outcomes. Self-esteem was measured at both baseline and follow-up stages of the experimental study. Over the duration of 10 years, 54% of participants remained at a high level of self-esteem amongst adolescence and early adulthood, while a noteworthy proportion improved or reduced in self-esteem (17% and 21%, respectively) or remained at a consistently low level (8%) (p. 109).

The authors found that self-esteem was associated with several outcomes (e.g., personal goals, life satisfaction, alcohol use, and health outcomes), and its impacts were different, which is contingent on the period considered and the types of change (Arsandaux et al., 2021). Greater adolescent self-esteem considerably predicted long-term personal goals, higher self-rated physical health, and fewer depressive symptoms, while young adulthood self-esteem was an estimation of improved life satisfaction, lower treatment pursuits for physical or mental illnesses, better self-rated mental health, and fewer depressive or anxiety symptoms.

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Arsandaux, J., Galéra, C., & Salamon, R. (2021). The association of self-esteem and psychosocial outcomes in young adults: A 10-year prospective study. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 26(2), 106–113.