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Relationships Between Anxiety, Perceived Support and Self-Esteem Report

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The notion that there is an inextricable link between anxiety and self-esteem, as well as perceived support from friends and self-esteem, has been subjects of frequent scientific examination. This study investigated the relationships between anxiety, social support, and self-esteem in a sample of 40 college students within the U.K. In particular, it sought to determine whether there is a relationship between anxiety, perceived support from friends, and self-esteem whereby anxiety and perceived support from friends act as predictors of the level of self-esteem.

The results indicated that there is a level of anxiety that could be utilized to predict self-esteem while support from friends could not be utilized as a predictor for self-esteem.

Social support

Despite the fact that previous studies have been conclusive in their investigation of the relationship between social support and self-esteem, very little has been the relationship between generalized anxiety and self-esteem. Furthermore, most of these studies have been conducted exclusively with adolescents (Moreau & Weissman, 1992).

While there are varying descriptions of the components of self-esteem and its conceptualization, there is a general consensus that social support, which is the provision of emotional and material resources by family, friends, and other significant individuals in one’s life, has been associated with many beneficial outcomes. High levels of support have been linked to better well-being, more hopefulness, and better adjustment, as well as higher self-esteem, lower levels of stress and depression (Demaray & Malecki, 2002; Dumont & Provost, 1999; Yarcheski, Mahon, & Yarcheski, 2001).

In order to examine the relationship between perceived social support from friends and self-esteem, it is prudent that we first offer operational definitions for social support and self-esteem. A variety of social support definitions can be found in the literature, and there remains no single definition agreed upon by those who study it (Pearson, 1986). Shumaker and Brownell (1984) defined social support as “an exchange of resources between at least two individuals perceived by the provider or the recipient to be intended to enhance the well-being of the recipient” (p. 13). Social support has also been described as information that one is esteemed and part of a group (Pearson, 1986).

One assumption underlying all investigations of social support is that those who have a high level of support have better emotional and physical health than those without social support. Those with high amounts of social support have more contact and companionship with others, a better-developed sense of self-identity (Shumaker & Brownell, 1984), are better able to cope with stress and have fewer psychiatric problems and lower mortality rates than lose with poor social support (Pearson, 1986).

Main Effect and Stress Buffering Theories of Social Support

There are two main theories that explain the process through which social support increases beneficial outcomes (Cohen & Wills, 1985). The main effect model of social support speculates that social support increases well-being for everyone, regardless of stress level (Cohen & Wills, 1985). According to the main effect model, the social networks in which one lives provide him/her with regularly occurring positive experiences and a sense of stability and predictability.

One is socially rewarded for his/her role in the community and therefore has a sense of self-worth (Cohen & Wills, 1985) because he/she is able to meet the expectations of a social role. Having a large social network also allows for greater access to information, a better sense of belonging and security, and better physical health (Cohen, Gottlieb & Underwood, 2000).

The stress-buffering model of social support states that social support only has a beneficial effect on well-being for those who are under stress because it protects them from its harmful impact (i.e., negative affect, increased physiological mechanisms, failure in self-care, substance abuse) (Cohen & Wills, 1985). According to this model, there are two points at which social support intervenes in the link between stress and poor health. First, social support mechanisms may prevent the initial stress appraisal by reframing a negative situation or increasing one’s perceived coping ability in order to better deal with the problem (Cohen, Gottlieb & Underwood, 2000).

If this occurs, the event is never judged to be stressful. Second, if an individual has judged an event to be stressful and is experiencing a negative response to it, social support resources can help him/her reappraise the situation and prevent a possible pathological outcome. At this stage, a social support network can help provide a solution to the problem, reduce the person’s perceived importance of the problem, reduce one’s reactivity to stress, or encourage healthy behaviors (Cohen, Gottlieb & Underwood, 2000).


The literature on self-esteem is immense, examining its impact on various populations in all domains of psychology. In this literature, there are three assumptions about self-esteem that virtually all psychologists endorse (Leary, 1999). First, it is assumed that humans are motivated to preserve, protect, and enhance their self-esteem. Self-esteem is a fundamental human need, which is maintained by controlling the information one processes in order to preserve a positive view of oneself. Therefore, the second fundamental assumption is that high self-esteem is more desirable than low self-esteem (Leary, 1999).

Low self-esteem is associated with a variety of psychological dysfunctions, whereas high self-esteem is associated with social adeptness, leadership, higher levels of adjustment, and good social skills. Finally, the third fundamental assumption is that raising low self-esteem improves psychological well-being and produces desirable changes in behavior (Leary, 1999). Interventions for a variety of different personal and societal problems are based on this assumption.

Like social support, the benefits of high self-esteem and the risks of low self-esteem have been extensively studied. One of the most highly researched connections is between self-esteem and stress. Youngs, Rathge, Mullis, and Mullis (1990) investigated the relationship between stress and self-esteem in a sample of high school students and found that as the students’ stress levels increased, their self-esteem decreased.

Youngs and colleagues found negative-life-event stress was more strongly related to self-esteem than levels of overall stress, indicating that events adolescents perceive to be negative may have an extremely detrimental effect on self-esteem. Other researchers have suggested that self-esteem may buffer against stress (Rector & Roger, 1997). Additionally, low self-esteem has also been linked to anxiety (Many & Many, 1975; Patten, 1983).

Social support and self-esteem

Social support has also been linked to self-esteem enhancement (Shumaker & Brownell, 1984; Yarcheski et al, 2001), as supportive exchanges foster one’s sense of adequacy and add value to one’s life. The effect of social support can be influenced by several factors. For example, the provider’s resources and the recipient’s needs must be compatible (Shumaker & Brownell, 1984). The effect of the support on the recipient can also determine the outcome of the support. For example, a student may gain social support from a peer group but that same peer group may also target that individual as the victim of relational bullying, placing him or her at risk for stress, anxiety, or depression. A recipient with a stable self-concept is more likely to engage in a supportive relationship than someone with a fluctuating or poor self-concept (Shumaker & Brownell, 1984).

Self-esteem and anxiety

Various studies have linked low self-esteem and anxiety whereby individuals who suffer from low self-esteem place themselves in a position where they experience increased susceptibility to anxiety (Greenberg et al. (1992), Leary et al. (1995) & Coopersmith (1981). Furthermore, Sedkides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro & Rusbult, (2004) posit that there is an inverse relationship between self-esteem. Self-esteem has been delineated as a social construct with cultural implications within the realm of terror management theory. Essentially culture fosters the development of self-esteem which in turn affects the level of anxiety an individual experience (Pyszczynski, Greenberg, Solomon, Arndt & Schimel, 2004).

Based on the pertinent literature as well as the theoretical framework one can ascertain that there is a correlation between self-esteem and social support of friends as well as self-esteem and anxiety. The relationship established is an inverse relationship. The implications of this are many especially when one considers the implication as they relate to positive psychology. The body of empirical research makes clear and concise implications in that there is some predictive value in social support and anxiety in that they can be utilized as an indication of the level of self-esteem of an individual. There is an inverse relationship between anxiety and self-esteem and a direct relationship between social support and self-esteem.



Enrolled in undergraduate course, 40 respondents from ___________________________ were utilized as subjects. Standardized questionnaires were administered to assess the ability of the measures of anxiety and perceived support among friends to predict an individual’s level of self-esteem. (please insert an accurate demographic description of the subjects as you did not provide me with this information).


Three standardized author-designed questionnaires were utilized as measures for this study. The first questionnaire assessed the study subject’s general anxiety level by utilizing a five-point Likert scale and ten items.

The scale indicated how uncharacteristic or characteristic an individual each of the ten statements is in describing the study subject. The items on the scale were as follows:

  1. being indicative of most of the time,
  2. being indicative of quite often,
  3. being indicative of sometimes,
  4. being indicative of rarely,
  5. being indicative of almost never.

Each item received a score based on the above paradigm and the scores for the individual’s items were added together to derive a total score for anxiety. Higher scores were indicative of extremely trait anxious individuals.

The second questionnaire assessed the perceived level of social support an individual received by utilizing a seven-point Likert scale and four items. The scale ranged from “very strongly disagree” to “very strongly agree” with “strongly disagree”, “mildly disagree”, “neutral”, “mildly agree” and “strongly agree” as intermediary values with 1 being indicative of “very strongly disagree” and 7 being indicative of “very strongly agree”. The intermediary statements were relatively assigned values. The scoring was such that the higher an individual scored, the greater the perceived level of social support the individual received.

The final questionnaire assessed the study subject’s self-esteem level by utilizing a four-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” and intermediary values of “agree” and “disagree”. A value of 3 was assigned to “strongly agree” while a value of 2 was assigned to “agree”, 1 was assigned to “disagree”, and 0 was assigned to “strongly disagree”. In total, there were 10 items in this questionnaire. The scoring, however, was somewhat different in that the nature of the questionnaire dictated that 5 items be reversely scored. The scoring was such that the higher the individual score, the higher the self-esteem.


Multivariate analysis was conducted utilizing Pearson Product Moment Correlation with anxiety and perceived support from friends serving as predictors and self-esteem serving as the outcome.


(Please delineate how the sample was collected as you did not include this information).


In total forty cases were processed. Thirty-five (87.5%) were valid and five (12.5%) were invalid. The reliability of the instrument used was.601 as indicated by the Cronbach’s Alpha. (See Table 1 for further details on the total statistics of each item).

2- tailed Pearson’s Correlational Analysis indicated that there was a significant negative correlation between total anxiety and total self-esteem (r = -.689). This correlation is significant at the 0.01 level. Multiple regression was conducted using SPSS 15.0 utilizing social support and anxiety as predictor variables and self-esteem as the criterion variable. Using the enter method, a significant model emerged (F2, 32=14.534, p < 0.0005). Adjusted R square =.443. Significant variables are shown below:

Predictor Variable Beta p

Total Social Support -.034 p < 0.0005

Total Anxiety -.682 p = 0.798.


The findings of this study indicate that there is a correlation between total anxiety and total self-esteem and there was no correlation between total social support and total self-esteem. Additionally, total anxiety could be used as a predictor of total self-esteem while total social support had no predictor value with regards to self-esteem. These results are contradictory to the findings of previous bodies of research.

Previous research indicated that social support and self-esteem have been consistently related in a variety of populations (McCreary et al., 1996; Yarcheski et al., 2001). Prior studies also found that females tended to view social support as more important than males did (Demaray and MaleckFs, 2003) and that relationships with significant others are more closely linked to the self-esteem of females than males (Josephs et al., 1992; Walker & Greene, 1986). Therefore, it was predicted that there would be a moderate, significant relationship between social support and self-esteem in victims of relational bullying. In addition, it was predicted that social support and self-esteem would be more strongly correlated in females than in males.

Correlational analyses revealed partial support for the hypothesis that social support and anxiety can be used as predictors for self-esteem. There was a relationship between anxiety and self-esteem but no relationship existed between social support and self-esteem.

This relationship was existent or non-existent irrespective of gender. Hunter and Boyle (2004) reported that females were more likely than males to view support as the preferred strategy to stop bullying and make themselves feel better.

Furthermore, a body of research exists which illustrates that there is a negative correlation between trait anxiety and self-esteem. Ho Yan (2006) reported that in order to improve our self-esteem and its effects on our general well-being, it is prudent that we reduce stress and anxiety in our daily lives. Anthony, Holmes & Wood (2007) have expounded on the notion that there is a negative correlation between self-esteem and trait anxiety by introducing social acceptance as a means of producing anxiety into the equation. They were able to prove that social acceptance is another predictor of self-esteem.

Finally, we have examined self-esteem as it relates to the theoretical constructs of social support and self-esteem. We were able to illustrate that there is a significant negative correlation between anxiety and self-esteem, no correlation between social support and self-esteem as well as the ability to utilize the level of trait anxiety as a predictor of self-esteem. These findings are substantiated in the present body of empirical research, however, the empirical research indicates that social support can be effectively utilized as a predictor of self-esteem. These findings are unsubstantiated by our body of research.


Anthony, D.B., Holmes, J.G. & Wood, J.V. (2007). Social acceptance and self-esteem: Tuning the sociometer to interpersonal value. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1024–1039.

Cohen, S., Gottlieb, B.H., & Underwood, L.G. (2000). Social relationships and health. In S. Cohen, L.G. Underwood, & B.H. Gottlieb (Eds.), Social support measurement and intervention (pp. 3-25). New York: Oxford University Press.

Cohen, S., & Wills, T.A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310-357.

Demaray, M. K., & Malecki, C. K. (2002). The relationship between perceived social support and maladjustment for students at risk. Psychology in the Schools, 39, 305-316.

Demaray, M. K., & Malecki, C. K. (2003). Importance ratings of socially supportive behaviors by children and adolescents. School Psychology Review, 32, 108-131.

Dumont, M., & Provost, M.A. (1999). Resilience in adolescents: Protective role of social support, coping strategies, self-esteem, and social activities on experience of stress and depression. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 28, 343-363.

Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., Pyszczynski, T., Rosenblatt, A., Burling, J., Lyon, D., Simon, L. & Pinel, E. (1992). Why do people need self-esteem? Converging evidence that self-esteem serves an anxiety-buffering function. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(6), 913-922.

Hoi Yan, C. (2006). Factors affecting the state anxiety level of higher education students in Macau: the impact of trait anxiety and self-esteem. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(6), 709–725.

Hunter, S.C. & Boyle, J.M.E. (2004). Appraisal and coping strategy use in victims of school bullying. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 83-107.

Josephs, R.A., Markus, H.R., & Tafarodi, R.W. (1992). Gender and self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 391 -402.

Leary, M.R. (1999). The social and psychological importance of self-esteem. InR.M. Kowalski, & M.R. Leary (Ed.), The social psychology of emotional and behavioral problems: Interfaces of social and clinical psychology (pp. 197-221). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Many, M.A., & Many, W.A. (1975). The relationship between self-esteem and anxiety in grades four through eight. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 35, 1017-1021.

McCreary, MX., Slavin, L.A., & Berry, E.J. (1996). Predicting problem behavior and self esteem among African American adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 11, 216-234.

Patten, M.D. (1983). Relationships between self-esteem, anxiety, and achievement in young learning disabled students. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 16, 43-45.

Pearson, J.E. (1986). The definition and measurement of social support. Journal of Counseling and Development, 64, 390-395.

Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., Arndt, J. & Schimel, J. ( 2004). Why Do People Need Self-Esteem? A Theoretical and Empirical Review. Psychological Bulletin, 130(3), 435-468.

Rector, N.A., & Roger, D. (1997). The stress buffering effect of self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences, 23, 799-808.

Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. W. (1994). Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem): A reevaluation of the Life Orientation Test. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 67(6), 1063–1078.

Shumaker, S.A., & Brownell, A. (1984). Toward a theory of social support: Closing conceptual gaps. Journal of Social Issues, 40, 11-36.

Sedikides, C., Rudich, E.A., Gregg, A.P., Kumashiro, M. & Rusbult, C. (2004). Are Normal Narcissists Psychologically Healthy?: Self-Esteem Matters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(3), 400–416.

Yarcheski, A., Mahon, N.E., & Yarcheski, T.J. (2001). Social support and well-being in early adolescents: The role of mediating variables. Clinical Nursing Research, 10, 163-181.

Youngs Jr., G.A., Rathge, R., Mullis, R., & Mullis, A. (1990). Adolescent stress and self-esteem. Adolescence, 98, 333-341.

Table 1—Total statistic of each Item.

Item Scale Mean if Item Deleted Scale Variance if Item Deleted Corrected Item-Total Correlation Cronbach’s Alpha if Item Deleted
calm and relaxed 63.9714 69.793 .042 .608
satisfied with life 64.1429 67.008 .240 .584
feel good about self 63.8571 66.420 .263 .582
reanxiety4 63.1429 65.832 .280 .579
feel secure 64.2857 66.916 .233 .585
mood and behaviour stable 64.1143 70.575 .002 .613
in control of body and mind 64.2286 64.887 .291 .576
reanxiety8 63.5714 65.252 .341 .573
reanxiety9 63.5714 63.840 .326 .571
easy to get rid of unpleasant thoughts and worries 63.6286 63.299 .311 .572
friends try to help me 60.7429 56.785 .564 .525
can count on friends 60.6000 56.776 .575 .524
can share joys and sorrows 60.4000 52.071 .620 .500
can talk to friends about problems 60.6571 52.761 .618 .503
feel i have equal worth 63.8571 70.008 .125 .597
reselfesteem2 63.8000 73.106 -.125 .618
have good qualities 63.9714 70.734 .135 .597
can things as well as others 64.0571 71.879 -.030 .608
reselfesteem5 63.7714 70.887 .076 .600
positive attitude towards myself 64.2571 74.726 -.232 .628
am satisfied with myself 64.2000 75.459 -.355 .627
reselfesteem8 64.2857 74.681 -.215 .630
reselfesteem9 64.5714 72.546 -.087 .617
reselfesteem10 64.2571 78.961 -.453 .653
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