Bulgarian Journal of Psychiatry, 2024; 9(1):36-45

Meaning in life and self-esteem as factors for health risk attitudes

Georgi Garkov, Irina Zinovieva
Sofia University “Sv. Kliment Ohridski”

 Abstract. Introduction and objectives: Meaning in life has been extensively addressed both as a philosophical and psychological problem. Nevertheless, a growing body of research associates meaning in life with diverse mental health outcomes and exposure to health risk behaviors as well. The present study aims to examine the potential relationships between the Big Five personality traits, self-esteem, meaning in life and general health risk attitude in Bulgarian culture. Materials and methods: The study employs a cross-sectional design. The following instruments are used: Mul dimensional Existential Meaning Scale (MEMS), Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES), a shortened version of Health risk attitudes scale (HRAS-13), mini-IPIP. Data collection was realised through an anonymous online form, shared publicly on popular social networks. Exploratory bifactor analysis and robust Bayesian regression models have been utilized for the purposes of data analysis. Results: 205 subjects above the age of 18 (49% females, and 81% with a degree in higher education) participated in the study. Within the media on model that has been constructed, global self-esteem and meaning in life are negatively associated with general health risk attitude. Self-esteem’s overall effect is: β = -0.449, 95% HDI [-0.646, -0.259]. The effect of meaning in life on health risk attitude is: β = -0.474, and 95% HDI [-0.660, -0.293]. However, the relationship between self-esteem and general health risk attitude is largely mediated by the meaning people recognize in their lives. Self-esteem’s direct effect is: β = -0.141, 95% HDI [-0.355, 0.068], while the indirect one is: β= -0.307, 95% HDI [-0.446, -0.172]. The remaining variables did not demonstrate significant associations with health risk attitude. Discussion: Meaning, by asserting one’s purpose and ontological significance, might promote self-preservation and the avoidance of self-damaging attitudes, insofar as engaging in harmful or risky behaviors could threaten the structures of meaning and their realisation. However, it is also possible that the affirmation of one’s worth and dignity could contribute to the realisation of meaning in life as well. The associations reported here are consistent with a previously reported role for meaning in self-care and health risk attitudes.

Keywords: meaning in life, health risk attitudes, self-esteem

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