Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies

Sowislo, Julia Friederike; Orth, Ulrich (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological bulletin, 139(1), pp. 213-240. American Psychological Association 10.1037/a0028931

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Low self-esteem and depression are strongly related, but there is not yet consistent evidence on the nature of the relation. Whereas the vulnerability model states that low self-esteem contributes to depression, the scar model states that depression erodes self-esteem. Furthermore, it is unknown whether the models are specific for depression or whether they are also valid for anxiety. We evaluated the vulnerability and scar models of low self-esteem and depression, and low self-esteem and anxiety, by meta-analyzing the available longitudinal data (covering 77 studies on depression and 18 studies on anxiety). The mean age of the samples ranged from childhood to old age. In the analyses, we used a random-effects model and examined prospective effects between the variables, controlling for prior levels of the predicted variables. For depression, the findings supported the vulnerability model: The effect of self-esteem on depression (β = -.16) was significantly stronger than the effect of depression on self-esteem (β = -.08). In contrast, the effects between low self-esteem and anxiety were relatively balanced: Self-esteem predicted anxiety with β = -.10, and anxiety predicted self-esteem with β = -.08. Moderator analyses were conducted for the effect of low self-esteem on depression; these suggested that the effect is not significantly influenced by gender, age, measures of self-esteem and depression, or time lag between assessments. If future research supports the hypothesized causality of the vulnerability effect of low self-esteem on depression, interventions aimed at increasing self-esteem might be useful in reducing the risk of depression.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Orth, Ulrich


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology




American Psychological Association




Jeannine Sebel

Date Deposited:

17 Apr 2014 16:30

Last Modified:

25 Sep 2018 14:40

Publisher DOI:





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