HEALTH: Health linked to self-esteem
People with low self-esteem are more likely to get ill, it has been claimed.
Sir Michael Marmot, of the International Centre for Health and Society in London, believes it may also shorten a person’s life.
In a paper in the British Medical Journal, he suggests that low self esteem can even lead some people to commit murder.
He said efforts to improve poor health should also focus on improving people’s self worth.
Poor health: Sir Michael looked at a number of studies carried out in recent years examining the relationship between people’s mental health and physical illness.
He found evidence to suggest that low self esteem can affect people’s behaviour. Encouraging people off welfare and into work sounds like a step in the right direction
For instance, they may be less likely to exercise or change their diet, which can increase their risks of obesity, heart disease and a range of other diseases.
He highlighted a number of studies which have shown a link between low self esteem and depression. Other researchers have found the people who are depressed have weaker immune systems, and are more likely to have a stroke or die early. Sir Michael highlighted a recent study which found that actors who won an Oscar lived on average four years longer than those who were nominated but did not win.
He suggested this may be linked to differences in self-esteem.
Sir Michael also looked at studies carried out in the United States into high murder rates.
He said a number of researchers had shown that murder rates are highest in those areas where the differences between the haves and have-nots are greatest. He suggested this inequality combined with low self esteem can drive people to kill.
“The results are violent confrontation and homicide,” he said.
Sir Michael highlighted further studies which have shown that people’s self esteem is affected by what kind of work they do and how much reward or pay they receive.
Employment: He suggested that one of the way’s of improving health inequalities and boosting people’s self esteem is to ensure they have a job. He pointed to the UK government’s efforts to tackle ill health among poor people. He backed moves to encourage unemployed people to take up jobs.
“Encouraging people off welfare and into work sounds like a step in the right direction,” he said.
But he warned: “The quality of jobs matters.” Demeaning, low paid jobs may make the situation worse, he said. British ministers published an action plan aimed at tackling health inequalities in July.
They include proposals to tackle the underlying causes of ill health, such as poor levels of education, poor housing and unemployment. —BBC