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Low Self-Esteem Is a Risk Factor for Depressive Symptoms From Young Adulthood to Old Age

Abstract

Data from two large longitudinal studies were used to analyze reciprocal relations between self-esteem
and depressive symptoms across the adult life span. Study 1 included 1,685 participants aged 18 to 96
years assessed 4 times over a 9-year period. Study 2 included 2,479 participants aged 18 to 88 years
assessed 3 times over a 4-year period. In both studies, cross-lagged regression analyses indicated that low
self-esteem predicted subsequent depressive symptoms, but depressive symptoms did not predict subsequent
levels of self-esteem. This pattern of results replicated across all age groups, for both affective–
cognitive and somatic symptoms of depression, and after controlling for content overlap between the
self-esteem and depression scales. The results suggest that low self-esteem operates as a risk factor for
depressive symptoms at all phases of the adult life span.
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Dr. Kali Trzesniewski,
Oct 20, 2011, 9:55 AM
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