A healthy body starts with a happy mind for seniors, a new study shows. Research led by Concordia University's Center for Research in Human Development suggests that feelings of self-confidence and worth correlate to a lower incidence of health problems.
While self-esteem and confidence issues are often associated with awkward teenagers and growing pains, older adults can also experience difficulty with their feelings of worth as they grow older. Previous studies have shown that self-esteem begins to decline in old age as people start to deal with empty nests, retirement, and the onset of health problems.
Researchers looked at 147 adults ages 60 and up and measured their self-esteem, cortisol, perceived stress levels, and any depressive symptoms over a four-year period. Participants with lower self-esteem were found to have higher cortisol levels. The effects were even more pronounced in people with a history of depression and stress. Too much of the stress hormone can have negative side effects like weight gain, sleep problems, digestive issues, and even memory impairment.
"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," study author Sarah Liu said in a release.
One way older adults can maintain and improve their self-esteem is to socialize and prevent isolation, Liu said, as loneliness can be a major health concern in older adults. A recent University of Chicago study estimated that loneliness can increase the chances of premature death by up to 14 percent.
"Improving self-esteem provides real health benefits in seniors," Liu said. "The ultimate solution may be to prevent self-esteem from declining."
Health experts say older people can increase their self esteem by taking care of their health and appearance, volunteering, and managing their free time.