What age are you the most confident?
In our youth-obsessed culture, one would assume that your self-esteem peaks in your 20s—but that’s not the case. Researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland set out to determine when the average person’s self-esteem is the highest, and the good news is that your peak comes decades later.
The study, published in in the journal Psychological Bulletin, analyzed 191 self-esteem research articles covering over 165,000 people. Researchers found that self-esteem increases throughout one’s lifetime, with a slight plateau during those awkward teen years. Between ages 11 to 15, self-esteem stops rising—but it never drops. (Check out these surefire ways to boost self-esteem, according to science.)
Our self-esteem levels then start rising again and don’t peak until well into midlife. The highest point for self-esteem level happened at age 60 and stayed there until a slight decline in one’s 70s and 80s.
This news that our self-esteem will continue to rise or stay steady during the majority of our lives is exciting. We often hear of increased stress in the decades of raising teens and caring for aging parents, but there are upsides too. “Midlife is, for many adults, a time of highly stable life circumstances in domains such as relationships and work. Moreover, during middle adulthood, most individuals further invest in the social roles they hold, which might promote their self-esteem,” study co-author Ulrich Orth, a professor of psychology at the University of Bern in Switzerland, told Time. “For example, people take on managerial roles at work, maintain a satisfying relationship with their spouse or partner, and help their children to become responsible and independent adults.” (Check out these eight ways to embrace your next milestone birthday.)
As we age and our roles tend to change, it’s natural for self-esteem to take a small hit. “Old age frequently involves loss of social roles as a result of retirement, the empty nest, and, possibly, widowhood, all of which are factors that may threaten self-esteem,” Dr. Orth told Time. “In addition, aging often leads to negative changes in other possible sources of self-esteem, such as socioeconomic status, cognitive abilities, and health.”
While the thought of decreasing self-esteem in old age sounds depressing, it’s important to remember that it is only a slight decrease. Dr. Orth believes that most people maintain a high self-esteem level even into their 90s and beyond.