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J Adolesc. 2000 Oct;23(5):569-82.

Does low self-esteem predict health compromising behaviours among adolescents?

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  • 1Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand.


It is often believed that low self-esteem is associated with such health-compromising behaviours in adolescence as substance use, early sexual activity, eating problems and suicidal ideation. Surprisingly, there is little longitudinal research addressing this issue. This longitudinal study examines the predictive association between both global and academic self-esteem from ages 9 to 13 years, and a variety of health compromising behaviours at age 15, in a large sample of young New Zealanders. Levels of global self-esteem significantly predicted adolescent report of problem eating, suicidal ideation, and multiple health compromising behaviours. Earlier levels of self-esteem were unrelated to later substance use and early sexual activity. The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for efforts to raise self-esteem among young people.

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