A new international study has found that self-esteem increases as people grow older, and men tend to have higher levels of it than women. The gender gap in self-esteem was found worldwide, but is widest in developed Western nations.
The data was collected over a span of 10 years between 1999 and 2009 by researchers who examined more than 985,000 people between the ages of 16 and 45. The researchers found that overall self-esteem tended to increase with age and that men at every age were found to have higher levels of self-esteem than women.
However, the study revealed that there were significant differences between nations. Wealthier, developed nations with higher gender equality had larger gender gaps in self-esteem than poorer, developing nations with less gender equality.
The researchers say this could likely be the result of specific cultural influences that guide self-esteem development in men and women. For example, the study showed that gender differences in self-esteem levels were small in Asian countries such as India, Indonesia and Thailand. But these differences were larger in countries such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
While there are cultural differences, the most surprising finding is that gender and age affect the self-esteem of people worldwide, the researchers said. "This remarkable degree of similarity implies that gender and age differences in self-esteem are partly driven by universal mechanisms; these can either be universal biological mechanisms such as hormonal influences or universal cultural mechanisms such as universal gender roles," said the research team. They believe the study could help lead to better ways to “promote or protect self-esteem.”