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Self-Esteem Shields Seniors from Aging Health

Update Date: Mar 12, 2014 05:23 PM EDT

Tell grandma she's looking good if you want to protect her health. New research reveals that boosting self-esteem may be more important in old age than adolescents in terms of health.

Researchers from Concordia University found that high self-esteem can protect older people from disease and health threats associated with aging.

Lead researchers Sarah Liu and Carsten Wrosch from Concordia University's Centre for Research in Human Development discovered a little confidence can go a long way when it comes to buffering potential health threats in seniors.

The latest study linked decreases in self-esteem to increases in the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in self-esteem lead to decreases in the stress hormone. Researchers said this link is especially strong in people who have a history of stress or depression.

The latest study involved 147 adults aged 60 and over. Researchers measured participants' cortisol levels, self-esteem, stress, and symptoms of depression every 24 months over four years. Researchers said that self-esteem was measured through standard questions like if the participant felt worthless. Researchers said the findings held true even after accounting for personal and health factors like economic status, marital status, and mortality risk.

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that maintaining or even enhancing self-esteem could help prevent health problems in old age.

"Because self-esteem is associated with psychological wellbeing and physical health, raising self-esteem would be an ideal way to help prevent health problems later in life," Liu said in a news release.

Liu said that caretakers and relatives should encourage older adults to "go out and make more friends, or simply enhance their feelings of self-worth."

"Improving self-esteem provides real health benefits in seniors," added Liu. "The ultimate solution may be to prevent self esteem from declining."

The findings are published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

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