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The present study conducted is partly a replication of a study ‘Gender differences in self-esteem and happiness among University students’ carried out by Malik and Sadia (2013). The findings of the study carried out by Malik and Sadia (2013) were as follows: males had significantly higher levels of self-esteem than females; insignificant differences were found between males and females for happiness; a positive relationship was found between self-esteem and happiness.

Moreover, the purpose of the current study is to explore gender differences between happiness and the relationship between self-esteem and happiness. Happiness is a feeling where an individual feels satisfied with their life and experience and feels more positive emotions in day-to-day life (Kesebir and Diener, 2008). A happy person is always cheerful and satisfied with his or her life (Lucas & Diener, 2000). Three important components are suggested to be facets of happiness: a higher level of life satisfaction, higher levels of positive affect (positive feelings and emotions), and little or no negative affect (negative emotions and feelings) (Myers & Diener, 1995; Hill & Argyle, 2002; Lucas, Diener, & Suh, 1996).

Several studies have found that external factors, such as physical health, income, education, job and close relationships, marital status, gender, and age do not have a lasting effect on happiness or influence happiness (Lyubomirsky, King & Diener, 2005; Diener, Oishi, & Lucas, 2003). In contrast, it is the internal factors, such as self-esteem and personality traits that influence one’s happiness and have an enduring effect on one’s long-term happiness (Lykken & Tellegen, 1996). Thus, happiness comes from inside (internal factors) rather than outside (external factors).

Moreover, a study by Khodarahimi (2013), included 200 Iranian adolescents and 200 young adults, which included males and females. The study found that males had significantly higher levels of happiness than females regardless of age. Several studies suggest that gender is associated with subjective well-being and many studies have found that women have higher levels of happiness compared to men (Wood, Rhades, Whelan, 1989; Koker, 1991; Zweig, 2014). For example, the study, which included 600 Taiwan Chinese people found that women scored significantly higher compared to men on the measures of happiness (Lu, Shih, Lin, Ju, 1997). Similar findings were also reported in other studies of happiness, which suggests that this is true cross-culturally (Shmotkin, 1990; Katja, Paivi, Marja-Terttu, Pekka, 2002; Meliha, 2006).

However, women have been found to score higher on the measures of depression and neuroticism than men (Cheng, Furnham, 2001). For instance, Mirowsky & Ross (1995) found that women experienced 30% more distress than men and often expressed negative emotions freely compared to men. The study by Fujita, Diener, and Sandvik (1991) found that even when women were as happy as men they reported experiencing more depression than men.

Another key element in our study is self-esteem. Self-esteem means having a positive view of oneself and appreciating yourself (own appearance beliefs, views, opinions, emotions, and behavior), so have high self-worth and self-respect (Lyubomirsky, Tkach and DiMatteo, 2006). The study by Redenbach (1991) found that Self-esteem is positively correlated with happiness, success at the workplace, and accomplishments in school and college. Self-esteem also has a positive correlation with health and a better quality of life (Evans, 1997).

Moreover, a high level of self-esteem is associated with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of emotional distress (Brown, Dutton, & Cook, 2001). Individuals who have high self-esteem are confident about themselves, can make new friends, and cope with problems in life, and therefore they are contented (happy) and have a higher level of satisfaction with their lives (Brown & Marshall, 2001; Katz, 1998). In contrast, to these findings, individuals with low self-esteem have negative thoughts for themselves, which causes them to experience negative feelings, such as anxiety and sadness. They are not very sociable and are not open to experiences, so they avoid taking risks in life or trying anything new as they think that they might fail or be unsuccessful (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, and Vohs, 2003; Croker & Park, 2004). Thus, self-esteem is vital to happiness.

Many of the studies have reported that males have a high level of self-esteem compared to females. This difference in self-esteem between males and females begins in adolescence and continues during early and middle adulthood and this difference decreases to a lower extent in old age (Kling, Hyde, Showers & Buswell,1999; Zeigler-Hill, & Myers, 2012; Robins, Trzesniewski, Tracy, Gosling & Potter, 2002). However, the studies also report that both genders have similar journeys for self-esteem. So, both genders have high self-esteem during childhood, which decreases during adolescence and then increases again in adulthood before it disappears in old age. (Wagner, Gerstorf, Hoppmann, & Luszcz, 2013; Orth & Robins, 2014; Robins & Trzesniewski, 2005).

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Furthermore, research findings suggest that individuals with high self-esteem are mentally happy and healthy, whereas those with low self-esteem are psychologically depressed and miserable (Abdel-Khalek, 2016). Individuals with high self-esteem are more likely to feel positive about themselves, they are better able to cope with challenges in life and negative feedback from people and have positive perceptions about people and the world (believe that everyone values and respects them) (Stavropoulos, Lazaratou, Marini and Dikeos, 2015).

In contrast, individuals who have low self-esteem have a very negative perception of themselves and the world. The study by Mackinnon (2015) found that low self-esteem is associated with depression, feelings of loneliness, shyness, and psychological distress. Thus, self-esteem affects the way individuals feel about themselves and low self-esteem can cause individuals to be unhappy in life. Thus, high self-esteem is vital for the feeling of happiness.

Furthermore, research has found that self-esteem is an important factor for emotional well-being (Baumeister et al, 2003). Research has found that individuals with higher levels of self-esteem experience more feelings of motivation, happiness, and optimism compared to those with lower levels of self-esteem and they also tend to experience less anxiety, depression, and negative moods (Abdel-Khalek, 2016). This implies that self-esteem is a very important factor for mental well-being.

Many other pieces of research had similar findings where self-esteem was positively correlated with satisfaction in life, hope, happiness, and loving relationships (Abdel-Khalek, 2016). Individuals with high self-esteem are more likely to cope with difficult tasks than individuals who have lower levels of self-esteem (Baumeister et al, 2003). Individuals with high self-esteem are stronger to face changes in life compared to low self-esteem (Stavropoulos et al 2015). Thus, a high level of self-esteem gives an ability to cope with challenges, handle unpleasant situations, and manage relationships with love.

High self-esteem has also been found to positively moderate depressive symptoms when one is facing negative life events (Stavropoulos et al 2015). Some studies have also found that individuals with high self-esteem are more persistent compared to low self-esteem individuals when they are facing failure in life (Di Paula and Campbell, 2002). Low self-esteem is also associated with higher levels of aggression, being less competent to cope with difficulties in life, depression, and decreased level of well-being (Stavropoulos et al, 2015).

In the study ‘Gender differences in self-esteem and happiness among University students’ by Malik and Sadia (2013) they used the Rosenberg Self-esteem scale (Rosenberg, 1965) to measure self-esteem in university students and they were successful in finding significant differences in self-esteem between males and females and it was also positively associated happiness, therefore, we will use the same scale in the present study.

However, in the present study, we have not used the Oxford Happiness questionnaire (Hills and Argyle, 2002) to measure happiness in our participants as in the study ‘Gender differences in self-esteem and happiness among University students’ insignificant differences were found between male and female for happiness. In the present study, we will use the PANAS scale (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988), which measures positive affect (positive emotions and feelings) and negative affect (negative emotions and feelings), and the Life satisfaction scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985). This is because evidence from the studies above implies that an individual who has a high level of satisfaction with their life, and who experiences a greater positive affect (experience positive emotions and feelings) and less negative affect (negative emotions and feelings) will have a high level of happiness as they have a high level of subjective wellbeing.

The hypothesis of the present study is:

    • Males will score significantly higher than females on self-esteem. H₀: There will be no significant difference between males’ and females scores on self-esteem. Any difference is due to chance.
    • There will be a significant positive relationship between self-esteem and happiness (subjective well-being). H₀: There will be no significant positive relationship between self-esteem and happiness. Any difference is due to chance. This implies that the higher the scores on self-esteem, the higher the scores on life satisfaction. The higher the scores on self-esteem, lower the scores on negative affect (and higher scores on positive affect) on the PANAS scale.
    • There will be a significant difference in the level of happiness between males and females. H₀: There will be no significant difference in the level of happiness between males and females. Any difference is due to chance.

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