Like a fine wine or George Clooney, many things improve with age: wisdom, the ability to tune people out on social media, the art of saying “no” …and now we can add self-esteem to the list.
According to a recent study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, 60-years-old seems to be the magic number for our self-confidence levels, which may stick around for a full decade. Researchers studied data from more than 164,000 people.
Results showed that average levels of self-esteem increased from age 4 to 11 years, remained stable from age 11 to 15, increased strongly until age 30, continued to increase until age 60, peaked at age 60 and remained constant until age 70, declined slightly until age 90.
The analysis revealed that “people’s self-esteem changes in systematic ways over the life course.” On average, self-esteem increases in early and middle childhood, remains constant in adolescence, increases strongly in young adulthood, continues to increase in middle adulthood, peaks between age 60 and 70 years, and then declines in old age, with a sharper drop in very old age.
“Midlife is, for many adults, a time of highly stable life circumstances in domains such as relationships and work. Moreover, during middle adulthood, most individuals further invest in the social roles they hold, which might promote their self-esteem,” study co-author Ulrich Orth, a professor of psychology at the University of Bern in Switzerland, told TIME.
Up until this extensive study, it was assumed that confidence levels would take a hit during the “awkward” teenage years, but that’s not the case at all. Instead, it plummets in old age. Explains Orth: “Old age frequently involves loss of social roles as a result of retirement, the empty nest, and, possibly, widowhood, all of which are factors that may threaten self-esteem. In addition, aging often leads to negative changes in other possible sources of self-esteem, such as socioeconomic status, cognitive abilities and health.”
The pattern of findings from the study holds across gender, country, ethnicity, and birth cohort.