18 Surprising Statistics and Facts about Self-Esteem

An excerpt from "What is Self-Esteem? A Psychologist Explains" by Courtney E. Ackerman

It can be hard to really wrap your mind around self-esteem and why it is so important. To help you out, we’ve gathered a list of some of the most significant and relevant findings about self-esteem and low self-esteem in particular.

Although some of these facts may make sense to you, you will likely find that at least one or two surprise you—specifically those pertaining to the depth and breadth of low self-esteem in people (and particularly young people and girls).

The facts:

  • Adolescent boys with high self-esteem are almost two and a half times more likely to initiate sex than boys with low self-esteem, while girls with high self-esteem are three times more likely to delay sex than girls with low self-esteem (Spencer, Zimet, Aalsma, & Orr, 2002).
  • Low self-esteem is linked to violence, school dropout rates, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic achievement (Misetich & Delis-Abrams, 2003).
  • About 44% of girls and 15% of boys in high school are attempting to lose weight (Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, n.d.).
  • Seven in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way (Dove Self-Esteem Fund, 2008).
  • A girl’s self-esteem is more strongly related to how she views her own body shape and body weight than how much she actually weighs (Dove Self-Esteem Fund, 2008).
  • Nearly all women (90%) want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance (Confidence Coalition, n.d.).
  • The vast majority (81%) of 10-year old girls are afraid of being fat (Confidence Coalition, n.d.).
  • About one in four college-age women have an eating disorder (Confidence Coalition, n.d.).
  • Only 2% of women think they are beautiful (Confidence Coalition, n.d.).
  • Absent fathers, poverty, and a low-quality home environment have a negative impact on self-esteem (Orth, 2018).

 These facts on low self-esteem are alarming and disheartening, but thankfully they don’t represent the whole story. The whole story shows that there are many people with a healthy sense of self-esteem, and they enjoy some great benefits and advantages. For instance, people with healthy self-esteem:

  1. Are less critical of themselves and others.
  2. Are better able to handle stress and avoid the unhealthy side effects of stress.
  3. Are less likely to develop an eating disorder.
  4. Are less likely to feel worthless, guilty, and ashamed.
  5. Are more likely to be assertive about expressing and getting what they want.
  6. Are able to build strong, honest relationships and are more likely to leave unhealthy ones.
  7. Are more confident in their ability to make good decisions.
  8. Are more resilient and able to bounce back when faced with disappointment, failure, and obstacles (Allegiance Health, 2015).

 Given the facts on the sad state of self-esteem in society and the positive outcomes associated with high self-esteem, it seems clear that looking into how self-esteem can be built is a worthwhile endeavor.

Relevant Research

Luckily, there are many researchers who have tackled this topic. Numerous studies have shown us that it is possible to build self-esteem, especially in children and young people.

How? There are many ways!

Recent research found a correlation between self-esteem and optimism with university students from Brazil (Bastianello, Pacico & Hutz & 2014). One of the most interesting results came from a cross-cultural research on life satisfaction and self-esteem, which was conducted in 31 countries.

They found differences in self-esteem between collective and individualistic cultures with self-esteem being lower in collectivist cultures. Expressing personal emotions, attitudes, and cognitive thoughts are highly associated with self-esteem, collectivist cultures seem to have a drop in self-esteem because of a lack of those characteristics (Diener & Diener 1995).

China, a collectivist culture, found that self-esteem was a significant predictor of life satisfaction (Chen, Cheung, Bond & Leung, 2006). They found that similar to other collectivist cultures, self-esteem also had an effect on resilience with teenagers. Teenagers with low self-esteem had a higher sense of hopelessness and had low resilience (Karatas, 2011).

In more individualistic cultures, teenagers who were taught to depend on their beliefs, behaviors, and felt open to expressing their opinion had more resilience and higher self-esteem (Dumont & Provost, 1999).

School-based programs that pair students with mentors and focus on relationships, building, self-esteem enhancements, goal setting, and academic assistance have been proven to enhance students’ self-esteem, improve relationships with others, reduce depression and bullying behaviors (King, Vidourek, Davis, & McClellan, 2009).

Similarly, elementary school programs that focus on improving self-esteem through short, classroom-based sessions also have a positive impact on students’ self-esteem, as well as reducing problem behaviors and strengthening connections between peers (Park & Park, 2014).

However, the potential to boost your self-esteem and reap the benefits is not limited to students! Adults can get in on this endeavour as well, although the onus will be on them to make the changes necessary.

Self-esteem researcher and expert Dr. John M. Grohol outlined six practical tips on how to increase your sense of self-esteem, which include: