The Relationship Between Depression and Self-Esteem

Research Topic

The topic which is proposed to be studied is the relationship between depression and self-esteem. In this case, self-esteem can be defined as “individual’s subjective evaluation of his or her worth as a person”; it does not necessarily describe one’s real talents, and high self-esteem does not mean an individual feel superior to others (Orth, Robins, Meier, & Conger, 2016, p. 134). On the other hand, depression can be understood as a state which is characterized by a number of interrelated cognitive, physiological, and affective symptoms; these symptoms include sadness, the lack of ability to feel pleasure, the dearth of concentration, hopelessness, and problems with sleep (Orth & Robins, 2013, pp. 455-456). Both levels of depression and levels of self-esteem can be measured as continuous variables (Orth & Robins, 2013; Sowislo & Orth, 2013; Steiger, Allemand, Robins, & Fend, 2014), and the relationship between these variables will be assessed in the proposed research study. It is expected that lower levels of self-esteem will be a risk factor for depression (i.e., that self-esteem will serve as one of factors affecting the levels of depression) (Millings, Buck, Montgomery, Spears, & Stallard, 2012; Orth & Robins, 2013; Orth, Robins, Widaman, & Conger, 2014; Sowislo & Orth, 2013).

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The offered topic of study is practically significant due to the fact that depression is a prevalent disorder not only in the U.S. but also worldwide, and it is stated that the major depressive disorder was the 4th leading case of disability in the world in 2012, and that it is expected to be the 2nd leading cause of such disability in 2020 (Kessler, 2012). This topic is significant to the field of psychology because psychology deals with the individuals’ behaviors, mind, and mental states, and depression, as has been stressed before, involves several cognitive and affective symptoms; self-esteem is also connected to a number of psychological factors and might be considered a psychological phenomenon; so it is important to establish and describe the connection between the two phenomena further.

Finally, the topic is significant to the specialization of general psychology because it concerns the relationship of two psychological phenomena which are assumed to be correlated, and which may develop in an individual in conditions that appear normal in the contemporary society. It should be stressed that the topic does not belong to the field of clinical psychology because it does not focus on treatment of clinical depression, it only seeks to describe one of the causes of depression which exists in the normal setting, and probably to show a way to lower the prevalence of depression outside the clinical setting (Muñoz, Beardslee, & Leykin, 2012). The target population will include adult persons with low levels of self-esteem and probably with an apparent risk of developing depression.

Research Problem

According to the research literature, it is apparent that there exists a correlation between the levels of self-esteem and depression (Orth et al., 2014). In fact, it is stated that lower self-esteem might predict higher incidence of depression (Sowislo & Orth, 2013). This is called the vulnerability model, because according to it, lower self-esteem makes an individual vulnerable to depression (Orth & Robins, 2013). The vulnerability model was tested in a number of studies, and evidence was found to support it (Orth & Robins, 2013; Orth et al., 2016; Sowislo & Orth, 2013; Steiger et al., 2014). Therefore, it might be considered that it is known that low self-esteem is a risk factor for depression. As a result, it appears logical to assume that enhancing self-esteem should decrease the risk of depression. However, no evidence in the literature has been found about it, and thus it is yet not known whether increasing self-esteem will actually lower the risk of depression, which constitutes a knowledge gap. Therefore, the research problem for the offered study is to find out whether enhancing persons’ self esteem may lower the risk of developing more severe depression.


Kessler, R. C. (2012). The costs of depression. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 35(1), 1-13. Web.

Millings, A., Buck, R., Montgomery, A., Spears, M., & Stallard, P. (2012). School connectedness, peer attachment, and self-esteem as predictors of adolescent depression. Journal of Adolescence, 35(4), 1061-1067.

Muñoz, R. F., Beardslee, W. R., & Leykin, Y. (2012). Major depression can be prevented. American Psychologist, 67(4), 285-295. Web.

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Orth, U., & Robins, R. W. (2013). Understanding the link between low self-esteem and depression. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(6), 455-460.

Orth, U., Robins, R. W., Meier, L. L., & Conger, R. D. (2016). Refining the vulnerability model of low self-esteem and depression: Disentangling the effects of genuine self-esteem and narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(1), 133-149.

Orth, U., Robins, R. W., Widaman, K. F., & Conger, R. D. (2014). Is low self-esteem a risk factor for depression? Findings from a longitudinal study of Mexican-origin youth. Developmental Psychology, 50(2), 622-633.

Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 213-240.

Steiger, A. E., Allemand, M., Robins, R. W., & Fend, H. A. (2014). Low and decreasing self-esteem during adolescence predict adult depression two decades later. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(2), 325-338.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Relationship Between Depression and Self-Esteem." May 5, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Relationship Between Depression and Self-Esteem'. 5 May.

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