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Understanding the Link Between Low Self-Esteem and Depression

English title Understanding the Link Between Low Self-Esteem and Depression
Applicant Orth Ulrich
Number 123370
Funding scheme SNSF Professorships
Research institution Fakultät für Psychologie Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.07.2009 - 30.06.2013
Approved amount 1'283'314.00
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Keywords (5)

self-esteem; depression; stressful events; longitudinal research; structural equation modeling

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
There is an ongoing debate about whether individuals with low self-esteem have worse prospects for their life than individuals with high self-esteem. Whereas some authors doubt that self-esteem affects the individual trajectories of psychological health, social adjustment, academic achievements, and economic welfare, others conclude that self-esteem has significant impact on many important life outcomes. With regard to depression-a key indicator of poor psychological health-a growing body of research suggests that self-esteem is consequential. Yet, little is known about the specific nature of the relation between self-esteem and depression. This research program addresses this gap through several longitudinal studies. One study will test alternative models of the mediating pathways through which low self-esteem contributes to depression. For example, low self-esteem likely motivates social avoidance, thereby impeding social reinforcement and social support, which has been linked to depression. A second study will examine short-term effects between low self-esteem and depression. Most previous prospective studies examined effects across long periods of time (e.g., years). However, from a theoretical perspective, it is also important to understand how the processes linking self-esteem and depression play out over shorter periods (e.g., days and weeks). A third study will target the effects of another characteristic of self-esteem, besides its level, namely the degree to which it fluctuates over time and is contingent on external feedback. The results of previous studies suggest that the variability of self-esteem predicts subsequent level of depression, even when controlling for the effect of level of self-esteem. A likely mechanism that causes variability of self-esteem is that an individual's self-esteem is contingent on events in relevant life domains, such as academic achievements, morality, social approval, and physical appearance. In sum, the results of this research program will inform both theory (personality and social psychology) and applied fields (education and clinical psychology). The overall aim is to better understand how, when, why, and for whom low self-esteem serves as a risk factor for the development of high levels of depressive symptoms and, possibly, depressive disorders.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Development of self-esteem and relationship satisfaction in couples: Two longitudinal studies
Erol R. Y., Orth U. (2014), Development of self-esteem and relationship satisfaction in couples: Two longitudinal studies, in Developmental Psychology, 50, 2291-2303.
Is low self-esteem a risk factor for depression? Findings from a longitudinal study of Mexican-origin youth
Orth U., Robins R. W., Widaman K. F., Conger R. D. (2014), Is low self-esteem a risk factor for depression? Findings from a longitudinal study of Mexican-origin youth, in Developmental Psychology, 50, 622-633.
The development of self-esteem
Orth U., Robins R. W. (2014), The development of self-esteem, in Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 381-387.
What constitutes vulnerable self-esteem? Comparing the prospective effects of low, unstable, and contingent self-esteem on depressive symptoms
Sowislo J. F., Orth U., Meier L. L. (2014), What constitutes vulnerable self-esteem? Comparing the prospective effects of low, unstable, and contingent self-esteem on depressive symptoms, in Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123, 737-753.
Actor and partner effects of self-esteem on relationship satisfaction and the mediating role of secure attachment between the partners
Erol R. Y., Orth U. (2013), Actor and partner effects of self-esteem on relationship satisfaction and the mediating role of secure attachment between the partners, in Journal of Research in Personality, 47, 26-35.
Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies
Sowislo J. F., Orth U. (2013), Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies, in Psychological Bulletin, 139, 213-240.
High self-esteem prospectively predicts better work conditions and outcomes
Kuster F., Orth U., Meier L. L. (2013), High self-esteem prospectively predicts better work conditions and outcomes, in Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 668-675.
How large are actor and partner effects of personality on relationship satisfaction? The importance of controlling for shared method variance
Orth U. (2013), How large are actor and partner effects of personality on relationship satisfaction? The importance of controlling for shared method variance, in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1359-1372.
The long-term stability of self-esteem: Its time-dependent decay and nonzero asymptote
Kuster F., Orth U. (2013), The long-term stability of self-esteem: Its time-dependent decay and nonzero asymptote, in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 677-690.
Understanding the link between low self-esteem and depression
Orth U., Robins R. W. (2013), Understanding the link between low self-esteem and depression, in Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 455-460.
Life-span development of self-esteem and its effects on important life outcomes
Orth U., Robins R. W., Widaman K. F. (2012), Life-span development of self-esteem and its effects on important life outcomes, in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 1271-1288.
Rumination mediates the prospective effect of low self-esteem on depression: A five-wave longitudinal study
Kuster F., Orth U., Meier L. L. (2012), Rumination mediates the prospective effect of low self-esteem on depression: A five-wave longitudinal study, in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 747-759.
Age differences in instability, contingency, and level of self-esteem across the life span
Meier L. L., Orth U., Denissen J. J. A., Kühnel A. (2011), Age differences in instability, contingency, and level of self-esteem across the life span, in Journal of Research in Personality, 45, 604-612.
Self-esteem development from age 14 to 30 years: A longitudinal study
Erol R. Y., Orth U. (2011), Self-esteem development from age 14 to 30 years: A longitudinal study, in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 607-619.
Tracking the trajectory of shame, guilt, and pride across the life span
Orth U., Robins R. W., Soto C. J. (2010), Tracking the trajectory of shame, guilt, and pride across the life span, in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 1061-1071.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Rand D. Conger (University of California, Davis) United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Alexander Grob (University of Basel) Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Richard W. Robins (University of California, Davis) United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Jaap J. A. Denissen (Tilburg University) Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Keith F. Widaman (University of California, Davis) United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
3rd Biennial Conference of the Association for Research in Personality Talk given at a conference How large are actor and partner effects of personality on relationship satisfaction? The importance of controlling for shared method variance 21.06.2013 Charlotte, NC, United States of America Orth Ulrich;
48th Congress of the German Psychological Society Talk given at a conference Level of self-esteem, but not instability and contingency of self-esteem, prospectively predicts depression 24.09.2012 Bielefeld, Germany Sowislo Julia; Orth Ulrich; Meier Laurenz Linus;
48th Congress of the German Psychological Society Poster The long-term stability of self-esteem: Its time-dependent decay and nonzero asymptote 24.09.2012 Bielefeld, Germany Kuster Farah; Orth Ulrich;
48th Congress of the German Psychological Society Talk given at a conference Is low self-esteem a risk factor for depression? Findings from a longitudinal study of Mexican-origin youth 24.09.2012 Bielefeld, Germany Orth Ulrich;
48th Congress of the German Psychological Society Poster Actor and partner effects of self-esteem on relationship satisfaction and the mediating role of adult attachment 24.09.2012 Bielefeld, Germany Erol Ruth Yasemin; Orth Ulrich;
16th European Conference on Personality Talk given at a conference Level of self-esteem, but not instability and contingency of self-esteem, prospectively predicts depression 10.07.2012 Trieste, Italy Meier Laurenz Linus; Sowislo Julia; Orth Ulrich;
16th European Conference on Personality Talk given at a conference The long-term stability of self-esteem: Its time-dependent decay and nonzero asymptote 10.07.2012 Trieste, Italy Kuster Farah; Orth Ulrich;
16th European Conference on Personality Talk given at a conference Is low self-esteem a risk factor for depression? Findings from a longitudinal study of Mexican-origin youth 10.07.2012 Trieste, Italy Orth Ulrich;
16th European Conference on Personality Poster Actor and partner effects of self-esteem on relationship satisfaction and the mediating role of adult attachment 10.07.2012 Trieste, Italy Orth Ulrich; Erol Ruth Yasemin;
11th Meeting of the Section for Individual Differences, Personality, and Assessment of the German Psychological Society Talk given at a conference Entwicklung des Selbstwertgefühls über die Lebensspanne und Effekte auf Erfolge und Wohlergehen in wichtigen Lebensbereichen 26.09.2011 Saarbrücken, Germany Orth Ulrich;
12th Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society Poster Rumination mediates the prospective effect of low self-esteem on depression: A five-wave longitudinal study 12.09.2011 Fribourg, Switzerland Kuster Farah; Meier Laurenz Linus; Orth Ulrich;
12th Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society Talk given at a conference Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies 12.09.2011 Fribourg, Switzerland Orth Ulrich; Sowislo Julia;
12th European Congress of Psychology Poster Self-esteem development in adolescence and young adulthood 05.07.2011 Istanbul, Turkey Erol Ruth Yasemin; Orth Ulrich;
2nd Biennial Conference of the Association for Research in Personality Poster Self-esteem development from age 14 to 30 years: A longitudinal study 16.06.2011 Riverside, CA, United States of America Orth Ulrich; Erol Ruth Yasemin;
2nd Biennial Conference of the Association for Research in Personality Poster Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies 16.06.2011 Riverside, CA, United States of America Orth Ulrich; Sowislo Julia;
2nd Biennial Conference of the Association for Research in Personality Poster Life-span development of self-esteem and its effects on important life outcomes 16.06.2011 Riverside, CA, United States of America Orth Ulrich;
2nd Biennial Conference of the Association for Research in Personality Poster Rumination mediates the prospective effect of low self-esteem on depression: A five-wave longitudinal study 16.06.2011 Riverside, CA, United States of America Meier Laurenz Linus; Orth Ulrich; Kuster Farah;
47th Congress of the German Psychological Society Talk given at a conference Entwicklung des Selbstwertgefühls im Erwachsenenalter: Eine kohorten-sequenzanalytische Längsschnittstudie 26.09.2010 Bremen, Germany Orth Ulrich;
11th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Talk given at a conference Self-esteem development from young adulthood to old age: A cohort-sequential longitudinal study 28.01.2010 Las Vegas, NV, United States of America Orth Ulrich;
10th Meeting of the Section for Individual Differences, Personality, and Assessment of the German Psychological Society Talk given at a conference Does self-esteem buffer the depressogenic effects of stressful events? Findings from three longitudinal studies 28.09.2009 Landau, Germany Meier Laurenz Linus; Orth Ulrich;
11th Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society Talk given at a conference Disentangling the effects of low self-esteem and stressful events on depression 19.08.2009 Neuchatel, Switzerland Orth Ulrich; Meier Laurenz Linus;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Is low self-esteem making you vulnerable to depression? Psychology Today International 2013
Media relations: print media, online media Selbstwertgefühl: Wie man Unsicherheit überwindet Gesundheitstipp German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Media relations: radio, television Dem Selbstwertgefühl auf der Spur DRS1 German-speaking Switzerland 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Ego in Full Bloom Psychology Today International 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Erfolg hat, wer selbstsicher ist 20 Minuten German-speaking Switzerland 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Frauen laut Studie so selbstbewusst wie Männer Salzburger Nachrichten International 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Frauen sind genauso selbstbewusst wie Männer Blick German-speaking Switzerland 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Frauen sind laut Studie nicht weniger selbstbewusst als Männer SonntagsZeitung German-speaking Switzerland 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Gleichstand: Frauen genauso selbstbewusst wie Männer Mens Health International 2011
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Ist Selbstwertgefühl der Schlüssel zum Erfolg? Swissinfo German-speaking Switzerland 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Les femmes ont autant d’estime de soi que les hommes Tribune de Geneve Western Switzerland 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Sich gut finden ist prima Neue Luzerner Zeitung German-speaking Switzerland 2011
Media relations: print media, online media Study finds self-esteem levels vary by age, race USA Today International 2011
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Young women "have as much self-esteem" as men Swissinfo International 2011

Awards

Title Year
Steven Karger Award for Outstanding Scientific Work, Department of Psychology, University of Basel 2013
William Stern Award for Outstanding Contributions to Personality Psychology, German Psychological Society (DGPs), Division of Personality Psychology and Psychological Assessment 2013

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
113065 Self-Conscious Emotions and Depression: Testing a Causal Model 01.10.2006 Fellowships for advanced researchers

Abstract

A growing body of research has documented that low self-esteem predicts subsequent levels of depression, but depression does not predict subsequent levels of low self-esteem. Yet, little is known about the specific conditions that mediate or moderate the effects of low self-esteem on depression. Moreover, most previous prospective studies examined effects across long periods of time (e.g., years). However, from a theoretical perspective, it is also important to understand how the processes linking self-esteem and depression play out over shorter periods.This research program addresses these gaps through three longitudinal studies. Study 1 will test alternative hypotheses about psychological processes that mediate the prospective effects of low self-esteem on depression. Possible mediators are both intrapersonal (e.g., rumination) and interpersonal (e.g., social avoidance) psychological processes. For the analyses, longitudinal data will be collected from a sample of college students, including five repeated assessments over a 2-year period. Study 2 will examine short-term prospective effects between low self-esteem and depression with a high temporal resolution. Moreover, mediators (i.e., the same processes as in Study 1) and moderators (e.g., stressful events) of these effects will be tested. For the analyses, data will be collected on 60 consecutive days from an adult sample of the general population. Study 3 will test whether contingent self-esteem, the tendency for self-esteem levels to fluctuate repeatedly in response to external feedback, influences depression independently of low self-esteem. Contingent self-esteem will be assessed using an objective measurement approach. The analyses will be based on the daily assessment data from Study 2 in conjunction with a baseline and a 6-month follow-up assessment of the sample.The results of the research described in this proposal will inform both theory (personality and social psychology) and applied fields (education and clinical psychology). The overall aim of the proposed studies is to better understand how, when, why, and for whom low self-esteem serves as a risk factor for the development of high levels of depressive symptoms and, possibly, depressive disorders. In addition to Studies 1 to 3 described in this proposal, the time schedule will allow for conducting other studies on related topics, using already available data sets. Moreover, the data collected for this project will allow addressing further relevant research questions. I am applying for a Swiss National Science Foundation professorship for four years. I will use the requested funds to conduct the research program together with three Ph.D. students at the Department of Psychology at the University of Basel.
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