Presenting Issues: Low Self-Esteem

December 30th 2018

Presenting Issues: Low Self-Esteem

In the 1960s, the sociologist Morris Rosenberg used the term self-esteem to describe a person’s overall sense of their self-worth. He developed the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, a set of ten questions which produces a score on a range of 10 – 40. The higher the score the greater the self-esteem. It became the most widely used measure of self-esteem in the social sciences.

Research tells us that self-esteem predicts outcomes in other areas of life, rather than the other way around. High self-esteem predicts relationship satisfaction, social-network size, physical health, employment status, and job satisfaction. On the other hand, low self-esteem is linked to poorer outcomes such as increased risk of depression. Early stress in life reduces children's self-esteem and has been found to make them vulnerable to depression in the future.

Self Esteem and Jigsaw data

Here at Jigsaw, we find that low self-esteem is consistently in the top ten issues young people present to us with for support, across all ages (12-25). This reflects Irish and international research which tells us that self-esteem is an issue for many young people.

Self-esteem is influenced by numerous things. For example, the My World Survey (a study of over 14,000 young people in Ireland) showed that young people who report low levels of self-esteem report higher levels of alcohol intake. In addition, 18-25 year olds who report high levels of financial stress also report low self-esteem. On the other hand, young people who reported having One Good Adult  in their lives, such as a supportive parent, sibling, relative, teacher or coach, have self-esteem significantly above average.

The My World Survey asked participants to complete the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. It found that young men consistently reported higher levels of self-esteem (30.31) and satisfaction with life compared to young women (27.13). 


The figure above shows that self-esteem also varied by age. The 18-19 age group reported the lowest self-esteem, but the score recovered as a young person moves into their twenties. As young people get older and more independent they become more inclined to like themselves and feel good about who they are.

Studies have suggested that improving self-esteem is possible with stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, humor, mindfulness and counselling.

This blog post was influenced by the following research:

Brown, J. D. (2014). Self-esteem and self-evaluation: Feeling is believing. Psychological perspectives on the self, 4, 27-58.

Dooley, B.A.,  & Fitzgerald, A. (2012). My world survey: National study of youth mental health in Ireland. Headstrong and UCD School of Psychology.

Orth, U., & Robins, R. W. (2014). The development of self-esteem. Current directions in psychological science, 23(5), 381-387.

Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological bulletin, 139(1), 213.

Wagner, J., Lüdtke, O., Jonkmann, K., & Trautwein, U. (2013). Cherish yourself: Longitudinal patterns and conditions of self-esteem change in the transition to young adulthood. Journal of personality and social psychology, 104(1), 148.

Galanakis, M. , Palaiologou, A. , Patsi, G. , Velegraki, I. and Darviri, C. (2016) A Literature Review on the Connection between Stress and Self-Esteem. Psychology, 7, 687-694. 

This blog is one of a series on the presenting issues young people face when coming to Jigsaw.