Intuition might lead you to believe that the idealism, health, and youthful looks of younger people translates to higher self-esteem. Or perhaps it comes a little bit later, at mid-career when you're at the top of your game.
But the data from studies involving over 164,000 participants shows that the best decade of life in terms of how you feel about yourself comes in the second half of life.
In fact, the science shows that your 60s are likely to be the decade when your self-image is at its best.
A meta-analysis of long-term studies involving 331 samples and people from ages 4 to 94 years old found that average levels of self-esteem basically increase until age 60, where they essentially stay near a peak before falling off a little bit between age 70 and 90.
In other words, your 60s truly are your golden years. And self-esteem typically stays pretty strong in your 70s and 80s, although the analysis found a more significant decline from 90 to 94.
"The pattern of findings holds across gender, country, ethnicity, and birth cohort," reads the study in the latest installment of the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.
Obviously, and as the study points out, self-esteem ebbs and flows throughout life depending on events, accomplishments, and challenges we all encounter. But more broadly speaking, it also tends to follow a pattern over the course of an average human life.
"Understanding the life span development of self-esteem is important because research suggests that self-esteem truly matters for people's lives," write authors Ulrich Orth, Ruth Yasemin Erol, and Eva C. Luciano from the University of Bern.
The researchers conclude that their findings suggest interventions to improve the self-esteem of people in very old age may be needed. They also say that the data contradicts earlier beliefs that self-esteem declines in middle childhood before reaching a low point in early adolescence.
"The findings suggest that, on average, self-esteem increases in early and middle childhood, remains constant in adolescence, increases strongly in young adulthood, continues to increase in middle adulthood, peaks between age 60 and 70 years, and declines in old age and more strongly in very old age."
Of course, probably the best response to this news is something along the lines of: Who gives a damn what some researchers say? Just let me do me.
Sounds like something you might say in your 60s.