A new study from the University of Kent finds that people with low self-esteem use a variety of escape mechanisms to avoid thinking about their own mortality.
Unfortunately, most of the the practices are unhealthy and may even be habit-forming.
Dr. Arnaud Wisman and researchers from Kent found evidence in five studies that people with low self-esteem respond to reminders of their own mortality by directing their focus away from the self.
Investigators determined that people with low self-esteem have unconscious concerns about their own mortality, and often employ a variety of ways to escape from self-awareness. The study demonstrated this link both inside and outside the laboratory.
For example, the escape from self-awareness may be expressed by avoiding writing about oneself, increasing alcohol consumption, and having less self-related thoughts, say the researchers.
In addition to drinking more alcohol in response to a mortality reminder, people with low self-esteem may be more likely to choose to engage in any number of health risk behaviors such as drug use, binge eating, smoking, and cutting that are conducive to escaping self-awareness.
These behaviors would enable them to, at least in the short term, avoid negative self-awareness.
Researchers believe the findings may help inform future health policy discussion leading to more proactive strategies for those with low self-esteem.