Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Self esteem is the same everywhere, right? So why does this page discuss global self esteem?
Wrong! There is a great deal of variation in the levels of self esteem around the world. So which country has the highest self esteem? And which country has the lowest? How does self esteem change from country to country, and what can we learn from these statistics?
Well, take a look at the map below, compiled from research from several studies. There are some countries we don’t have data for, but it is VERY interesting.
Key: High self esteem – dark green; light green is Low self esteem – (learn how it can be cured by following my tips on this page here)
Which Countries Have the Highest Self Esteem?
According to research (Schmitt and Allik, 2005), here are the top five countries:
- Serbia 2. Chile 3. Israel 4. Peru 5. Estonia
The countries with the lowest levels of self esteem are:
Japan, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Czech republic and Taiwan.
The USA is ranked sixth and the UK is not ranked in the top 15 countries.
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The Data Behind This Map
David P. Schmitt and Juri Allik carried out a study into self esteem using the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale with almost 17,000 people in 53 countries. Most of this data comes from this study which you can read in detail here. Others sources are the study by Bleidorn, Arslan, Denissen, Rentfrow, Gebauer, Potter & Gosling (2015) and Chatard, Selimbegovic and Konan (2009).
- No connection was found between those living in cultures which value the individual more and higher self esteem. Individualist countries include Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- Collectivist countries do not have lower self esteem than individualist countries. Collectivist countries include Bangladesh, Botswana, Chile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia,Peru, Serbia, and South Korea.
- In countries that see that men and women as equals overall self esteem is higher.
- Self esteem levels are not connected to life expectancy, literacy or standard of living.
- Individualist countries had lower levels of self liking and higher levels of self competence.
- Collectivist countries had higher levels of self liking and lower levels of self competence.
- Higher self esteem = lower levels of anxiety
According to the information in these studies the notion of self esteem is pretty uniform across the globe and we can get a reasonably good picture of how this varies across cultures.
Which countries are the most confident?
As I explain here, self esteem often equates to a higher level of self confidence, so let’s take a look now at global self esteem statistics.
There are many ways that people show confidence. Let’s start with one I’ve written about on this website, satisfaction in your appearance or body image. The country where most people are happy with how they look is:
1. Mexico – 29% are very satisfied with their appearance
2. Turkey – 26%
3. Ukraine, Brazil – 22%
5. Argentina – 20%
6. USA – 18%
9. Canada 11%
17. UK, Australia – 8%
(according to research by GFK carried out on 22,000 people in 22 countries)
This is not the only possible way to measure confidence of course. Many men and women state that skin confidence is a major factor so a survey was carried out by Clarisonic. The question asked was:
How proud are you to show off your skin with nothing on it?
The percentages who said they were:
China, France 20%
South Korea 12%
Different Ethnic Groups
According to research by Gray-Little and Hafdahl (2000) and also by Twenge and Crocker (2001) there is a clear difference in self esteem between different races and ethnic groups. Here are the results in order from high to low self esteem level:
- American Indians
Another interesting result was that in women the difference between blacks’ and whites’ self esteem level is greater, meaning that black women are more confident than black men when compared to their white counterparts.
East Asians v Americans
It is commonly believed that people from countries such as China and Japan have lower positive attitudes towards themselves and therefore lower self esteem – this article I’ve written shows how this can be changed using affirmations. I have also experienced this common belief while teaching on Pre-sessional English classes at Durham University and the University of Leicester over the last decade or so. Is it true?
A study summarised on psychcentral.com, and carried out in Universities in China, Japan and the United States found that this is not true and that implicit self esteem is high in all these countries and especially in Japan so this myth appears from this research to be incorrect.
According to most experts self esteem increases as people get older and this seems quite consistent around the world.
Men and Women
Global self esteem appears in most research to be higher in men than women and this seems to be quite consistent. The reason is not clear but their are various opinions such as biological or social reasons. In most societies men have a higher responsibility and social standing even today, though this may be changing as women become more equal to men in all fields. Read more about this on apa.org
In academic settings there is much evidence to show that worldwide girls lack confidence in themselves which is especially true in Science and Maths. This lack of confidence means that girls do not succeed academically in these important subjects. It is not because of ability, just further proof of what I believe, that self esteem is an important driver for success in life, see why here. This is something that psychologists and those in education need to address as the contribution of women in business and science should be encouraged.
Schmitt and Allik. (2005). Simultaneous Administration of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale in 53 Nations: Exploring the Universal and Culture-Specific Features of Global Self-Esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 89, No. 4, pp.623–642 Read the full article
Bleidorn, W., Arslan, R. C., Denissen, J. J. A., Rentfrow, P. J., Gebauer, J. E., Potter, J., & Gosling,S. D. (2015). Age and Gender Differences in Self-Esteem—A Cross-Cultural Window. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Read the full article
Chatard, Selimbegovic and Konan (2009). Self-esteem and Suicide Rates in 55 Nations. European Journal of Personality. Vol. 23: 19–32
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.