BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and the Impact of Self-esteem on a Nation



Global self-esteem is defined as a general or overall sense of worthiness possessed by people as a nation. According to Maslow’s self-actualization theory, self-esteem in addition to the need for achievement, competence, independence, and respect, is fourth in the hierarchy of needs.  Self-esteem, being a fundamental human need and motive has been broadly investigated in social science research as well as in clinical, developmental and counseling psychology. Results from experiential studies recognize and emphasize the fact that self-esteem is one of the most significant concepts that explains and relates to several behavioral, health, economic and social outcomes of life and realities in a nation.

More specifically, some studies identify self-esteem as a significant determinant of health and emotional well-being, such that individuals with high self-esteem have greater emotional stability and are better at managing their emotions compared to others. Additionally, a 2006 New Zealand longitudinal research followed some adolescents and found that those with low self-esteem had poor physical and psychological health, poor economic prospect and increased chances of engaging in crime. Concurrently, high self-esteem has been associated with negative psychological and behavioral outcomes such as egoism, aggression, narcissism and violence.

The results of low and high self-esteem in individuals are reflected in the nation’s health and invariably, in global health. To avoid the dark side of self-esteem which is caused by low confidence and over-confidence or too high self-esteem, individuals and nations must strike a balance by possessing a healthy self-esteem. According to research in 2005 by David P. Schmitt and Juri Allik, self-esteem varies vastly in levels around the world.  These researchers used the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale to analyze data of about 17,000 people in 53 different countries. The results showed that the top five countries with the highest levels self-esteem are Serbia, Chile, Israel, Peru and Estonia while the countries with the lowest levels of self-esteem are Japan, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Czech Republic and Taiwan.

The understanding of self-esteem was similar across these countries and in general: self-esteem was higher in countries that regard men and women equally; levels of self-esteem were not linked to life expectancy, literacy or standard of living; individualist and collectivist countries had lower and higher levels of self-esteem respectively; higher self-esteem was directly proportional to lower levels of anxiety; men had higher self-esteem than women and self-esteem increases as age increases. Another study examined the impact of national differences in self-esteem on suicide rates using data from the International Sexuality Description Project (ISDP). Results showed that suicide is particularly common in nations with comparatively low levels of self‐esteem; this association was consistent across sex and age but independent of economic affluence, social status, individualism, well‐being, and neuroticism.

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