Boosting self esteem is usually a job left to parents, guidance counselors and teachers -- an adult offering a necessary nudge of confidence for tentative toddlers, teens and kids in between.
But a new study suggests your old man may need a boost, too. In fact, raising self-esteem may play an important role in minimizing the stresses of old age.
Researchers at Concordia University measured the cortisol levels, self-esteem, stress, and symptoms of depression 147 adults, aged 60 and over, for a period of four years. They found that as an individual's self-esteem decreased, release of the stress hormone cortisol went up -- and vice versa. For those who already had a history of anxiety or depression, this inverse relationship between esteem and cortisol was particularly strong.
Cortisol is absolutely essential to human life. But prolonged exposure to high levels of the hormone can weaken the immune system and break down muscle, bone, and connective tissues in the body.
Led by psychologists Sarah Liu and Carsten Wrosch, the new study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
"Improving self-esteem provides real health benefits in seniors," said Liu. "The ultimate solution may be to prevent self-esteem from declining."
"Because self-esteem is associated with psychological wellbeing and physical health, raising self-esteem would be an ideal way to help prevent health problems later in life," she said.