My best friend is a psychologist in private practice, so any news about behavior catches my eye. For example, a new study on self-esteem, which analyzed 191 research articles covering almost 165,000 people, suggests this is one trait that gets better with age.
Data suggest self-esteem first begins to rise between ages 4 and 11. Levels then seem to plateau, although there is no decline, as the teenage years begin — ages 11 to 15. The best age for self-esteem seems to be 60, according to a paper in the journal Psychological Bulletin; those positive feelings can stay at their peak for a decade.
Professor of psychology and study co-author Ulrich Orth from the University of Bern in Switzerland is quoted as saying “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.”
It’s easy to assume self-esteem falls during the traditionally awkward early teenage years. But Professor Orth says his findings show that’s not the case. Actually, self-esteem appears to hold steady until mid-adolescence. After that lull, self-esteem seems to increase significantly until age 30, then more gradually throughout middle adulthood, before peaking about age 60 and remaining stable until age 70. It isn’t until this age that many adults experience a decline in self-esteem, beginning modestly around 70 and becoming more significant around age 90. Professor Orth explains it this way: “Old age frequently involves loss of social roles as a result of retirement, the empty nest, and, possibly, widowhood, all of which are factors that may threaten self-esteem. In addition, aging often leads to negative changes in other possible sources of self-esteem, such as socioeconomic status, cognitive abilities and health.”
The good news, Professor Orth says, is that “Many people are able to maintain a relatively high level of self-esteem even during old age.”