From Self-Esteem to Mental Health: Empathy as Mediator

Ömer Faruk Şimşek* and İhsan Bozanoğlu**
*Asst. Prof. Dr., Izmir University of Economics, Department of Psychology, Izmir, TURKEY
**Asst. Prof. Dr., Abant Izzet Baysal University, Faculty of Education, Bolu, TURKEY

Problem Statement: Although self-esteem has been considered an end-state of mental health or a defense mechanism, recent theoretical and empirical findings questions its status in the field of psychology. As a result of such a framework, research mainly concentrated on mean differences in self-esteem and the consequences of these differences for mental health. However, some theoretical considerations imply that self-esteem should be considered a dynamic human striving, which contributes to mental health through its effects on other variables related to the construction and maintenance of social relationships such as empathic tendency. Thus, it is a requisite to understand the mediatory factors connecting self-esteem and mental health.
Purpose of the Study: The purpose of this study was to understand whether the relation between self-esteem and mental health is mediated by empathic tendency. In other words, a structural model with direct paths from self-esteem to empathic tendency and paths from empathic tendency to life-satisfaction, happiness, and psychopathology were specified.
Method: A structural model was tested using structural equation modeling. Before the structural model, a measurement model was tested. A measurement model is structured using the item-parceling method. Different goodness of fit statistics were used to assess models such as the Goodness of Fit Index (GFI), Adjusted Goodness of Fit Index (AGFI), and Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA).
Findings and Results: The results showed that both the measurement model and structural model fitted the data reasonably. Mediation tests indicated that the relation between self-esteem and well-being (life satisfaction and happiness) is partially mediated by empathic tendency, while the relation between self-esteem and ill-being is fully mediated.
Conclusions and Recommendations: The idea that self-esteem is good in itself and an end state that should be satisfied for mental health should be re-evaluated. Empathic tendency is one important mediatory variable in understanding the effect of self-esteem on mental health. Its effects on mental health through other social or individual dynamics should be evaluated in future research.
Keywords: Self-Esteem, Empathy, Mental Health, Structural Equation Modeling.