Self-Esteem During the Ageing Process

Self-Esteem During the Ageing Process

Theo van der Weide (Radboud University, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4772-3.ch007


In this chapter, the author focuses on the phase in human life that starts with the ending of the reproductive phase in one's life, usually referred to as the midlife crisis. The author especially focuses on self-esteem. He first studies the size of the problem. Then he uses Maslow's hierarchy of needs to understand the demotion process associated with the midlife crisis. Then he uses Hofstede's cultural model to understand this phase in a cultural context. Finally, the author discusses modern ICT development in general, and especially the global village created by the internet.
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We see an increase of the world population that is caused by improved living conditions. Life expectancy at birth is rising across the globe (OECD, 2013). According to WHO (2016), life expectancy at birth has improved worldwide at a rate of more than 3 years per decade, with an exception in the 1990s, but country-wise there are still large differences. The report also shows that healthy life expectancy at birth is close to life expectancy at birth. So not only people live a longer life, they also are more vital at older age. This has consequences, in people’s life there is a more and more serious phase after children leaving home (OECD, 2011; Kluge, Zagheni, Loichinger, & Vogt, 2014).

This paper focuses on the phase that starts with the mid-life crisis (menopause), typically at the age of 40-50. We will be especially interested in the process of change and the adaption to the new situation. An extra dimension is the effect of the digital (r)evolution. The digital (r)evolution already has shown to have a serious effect on all aspects of daily life. For example, Freund (2015) discusses social consequences. According to Wladawsky-Berger (2015) this will spread over developing countries also. In this paper, we want to relate our reflections to the changing attitudes in handling the mid-life crisis phase caused by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the context of cultural differences.

First we focus on the start of the period that we want to consider in this paper. According to Edwards and Byrd (2008) the term Midlife was defined by E. Jaques as “a time when adults retrospectively analyze their lives, project future autonomy, functionality, and life expectancy, and realize their mortality as an intimate reality.” For phenomenology and a conceptual framework, see Lachman (2004).

The mid-life crisis seems to be not a human-only condition, also great apes go through a mid-life crisis (Callaway, 2012; Weiss, King, Inoue-Murayama, Matsuzawa, & Oswald, 2012). Consequently, we conclude that the mid-life crisis by itself is not a cultural phenomenon. But the way this crisis is experienced will strongly depend on cultural issues. But self-esteem seems to be an important issue during this crisis.

The female menopause (referred to as the menopause) ends the woman’s reproductive capability, and is characterized by the cessation of ovulation and menstrual cycles. This is experienced as physical and emotional changes. It has been observed that depressive disorders and symptoms are common among middle-aged women (Llaneza, Garcia-Portilla, Llaneza-Suárez, Armott, & Pérez-López, 2012). But the psychological effects may have other reasons. Rubinstein and Foster (2012) found a positive association between body dissatisfaction and negative attitudes towards menopause.

The male menopause, (also referred to as the andropause) changes the reproductive system of males by a gradual change in sexual hormones. This is experienced as a marked deterioration of physical fitness. According to Sheehy (1999) aging “strikes at the core of what it is to be a man ... his youthful sexual drive and performance”. Metz and Miner (1998) describe the impact of aging on male sexual function and develop a biopsychosocial model to support men during this phase, see also American Psychological Association (2015). Schurink and Claassens (2005) classify the symptoms of the hormonal decline during aging into physical, psychological and sexual symptoms, while endocrine has been suggested as a fourth category.

Since (healthy) life expectancy at birth is rising across the globe we see an ongoing increase in numbers of long term couples. In this paper, we restrict ourselves to long-term relationships in which raising children is a major issue. After ending the reproductive phase, such relationships need to find other common goals. According to Henry and Miller (2004) the most common midlife marital problems are: financial matters, dealing with the children and sexual issues.

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