A new study has revealed that people who belong to a large number of groups or clubs reported higher levels of self-esteem than people who have a big network of friends.
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research fellows Nyla Branscombe (University of Kansas), Alexander Haslam and Catherine Haslam (both University of Queensland) recently collaborated with lead author Jolanda Jetten on experiments to explore the importance of group memberships for self-esteem.
Working with groups of school children, the elderly, and former homeless people in the United Kingdom, China and Australia, their studies showed consistently that people who belong to many groups, whatever their nature, had higher self-esteem.
It turns out that no matter the person's background, they showed higher levels of self-esteem if they belonged to one or multiple groups — but only if the groups were somehow connected to their social identity and sense of self.
"Groups often have rich value and belief systems, and when we identify with groups, these can provide a lens through which we see the world," said Jetten, Lead author of the study. Self-identifying with religious, cultural, ethnic, or even hobbies groups could help people have a sense of purpose
Past research has shown that people involved in social groups experience better mental health and live healthier, longer lives than people who aren't involved in groups.
Indeed, past research has shown the loneliness leads to negative health effects, including a higher risk of earlier death, depression, and heart disease. The new study could signal a shift away from thinking about self-esteem as something that comes solely from inside of people.