The conversations of life

Just getting better with age: self-esteem peaks at 60, according to science


If you’re in your 60’s and feel like your confidence is at its highest, you’d be right.

Our sense of self-worth only hits its peak when we reach this decade – and stays there for the full 10 years, according to a new paper published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

Drawing on nearly 200 previously published studies on self-esteem – and data from around 165,000 people – the researchers found self-esteem starts to go up between the ages of four and 11 as children develop their social and cognitive skills and start to get some independence (and realise that your parents aren’t always right).

These levels then seem to plateau from the ages of 11 to 15 (gotta love those awkward teen years) before increasing rapidly up to the age of 30 and then more gradually up to a high around 60.

The swinging 60’s

So why is 60 the magic number?

The team behind the study says that it’s usually the age that people are investing in their social roles – whether at work, in their relationships with a partner or spouse  or with helping their children “become responsible and independent adults” (in short, kicking them out of the nest).

It makes sense to us. All of my family and friends in our 60’s have spent the time figuring ourselves out – we know what we want and we just don’t care what others think.

Self-esteem does take a hit after the age of 70 – which the researchers put down to factors that can have negative changes such as retirement, health issues or the loss of a spouse.

But with most people able to maintain their sense of self-worth well into old age, they say it’s all a matter of attitude.

That, and wearing whatever the hell you want.

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.

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