Self-esteem is generally thought to be a good thing. However, there is evidence that it is not so helpful when it comes to health promotion. People with high self-esteem tend to have an 'it'll never happen to me' philosophy and underestimate the risks of unhealthy behaviour. A team of researchers led by Christopher A. Neumann of the Forest Institute, Springfield, Missouri tested this theory on 304 college students (all of whom drank) by giving them literature from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and then asking them about their attitudes to alcohol, intentions to cut down on their drinking and actual drinking behaviour. The study found that women, especially those with low self-esteem, were more worried about their drinking after reading the literature but men and those students with high self-esteem showed much less inclination to cut down on their drinking. High self-esteem was also associated with drinking more often and more binge drinking.
Neumann, Christopher A. ... [et al] - Self-esteem and gender influence: the response to risk information among alcohol using college students Journal of Substance Abuse December 2009, 14(6), 353-363