Years of life experiences often boost our self-confidence. But when we hit our 60s, we may lose some of this age-related self-esteem, especially if our income and health have flat-lined, according to study findings printed in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association (APA).

For the study, researchers polled 3,617 American adults, ages 25 to 104, four times during a 16-year period.

According to an APA news release, study results showed that participants’ self-esteem was lowest among young adults and increased as people aged. Self-esteem was highest at about age 60, but after that it dropped off.

Researchers also found that women had less self-esteem compared with men during most of their adult life. But once men and women reached their 80s and 90s, self-esteem differences evaporated between the sexes.

Interestingly, blacks and whites exhibited about the same level of self-esteem throughout their adulthood and middle age, scientists noted. But in old age, self-esteem among blacks plunged compared with whites.

Researchers also noted that having a high income and good health also affected the self-esteem of older people.

“We cannot know for certain that more wealth and better health directly lead to higher self-esteem, but it does appear to be linked in some way,” said Ulrich Orth, PhD, the study’s lead author.

But researchers continued to theorize about why self-esteem soars in middle-aged people only to decrease as they get older.

“Midlife is a time of highly stable work, family and romantic relationships. People increasingly occupy positions of power and status, which might promote feelings of self-esteem,” said Richard Robins, of the University of California at Davis, the study’s co-author. “In contrast, older adults may be experiencing a change in roles such as empty nest, retirement and obsolete work skills in addition to declining health.”

Click here to read about how young girls can build self-esteem.