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Personality and Individual Differences 96 (2016) 127131

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Personality and Individual Differences


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/paid

Mediating role of self-esteem on the relationship between mindfulness,


anxiety, and depression
Badri Bajaj a,, Richard W. Robins b, Neerja Pande c
a
b
c

Dept. of Humanities & Social Sciences, Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida, A-10, Sector: 62, Noida 201307, India
Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8686
Indian Institute of Management Lucknow, Noida Campus,,B-1 Sector: 62, Noida 201307, India

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 12 January 2016
Received in revised form 21 February 2016
Accepted 27 February 2016
Available online xxxx
Keywords:
Mindfulness
Self-esteem
Anxiety
Depression

a b s t r a c t
The current study aimed to examine the mediation effects of self-esteem on the association between mindfulness
and anxiety and depression. A sample of 417 undergraduate students completed a packet of questionnaires that
assessed mindfulness, self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Correlation results indicated that mindfulness was
associated with self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), mediational
analyses showed that mindfulness exerted its indirect effect on anxiety and depression through self-esteem. A
multi-group analysis showed that the mediational model was not moderated by gender and thus provided a preliminary support for the robustness of the nal meditational model. The ndings corroborate an important role of
self-esteem in mindfulness exerting its benecial effects on anxiety and depression.
2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Mindfulness refers to a process that leads to a mental state characterized by nonjudgmental and nonreactive awareness of presentmoment experiences, including emotions, cognitions, and bodily sensations, as well as external stimuli such as sights, sounds, and smells
(Bishop et al., 2004; Brown & Ryan, 2003; Brown, Ryan, & Creswell,
2007; Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Experiencing the present-moment nonjudgmentally and openly can effectively counter the effects of stressors,
because excessive orientation toward the past or future when dealing
with stressors can be related to feelings of depression and anxiety
(Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Mindfulness allows individuals to perceive
thoughts and events the way they are and keep them away from
judging it critically (Brown et al., 2007). Mindfulness is also conceptualized as a psychological trait that refers to the tendency to be mindful in
everyday life (Brown & Ryan, 2003). Meditation or mindfulness training
may be used to enhance levels of mindfulness (Baer et al., 2008;
Falkenstrom, 2010).
1.1. Mindfulness, anxiety and depression
Mindfulness could help the individuals to give up depressive
rumination (Teasdale et al., 2000; Williams, 2008). Increasing evidence
has demonstrated that mindfulness-based interventions can effectively
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: badri.bajaj@jiit.ac.in (B. Bajaj), rwrobins@ucdavis.edu
(R.W. Robins), neerja@iiml.ac.in (N. Pande).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.02.085
0191-8869/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

improve positive emotion and reduce depression in both clinical and


nonclinical populations (Tang et al., 2007; Teasdale et al., 2000;
Williams, 2008). Recent meta-analyses suggest that mindfulnessbased interventions (MBIs) are efcacious in treating anxiety and
mood disorders and reduce anxious and depressive symptoms
(Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010; Khoury et al., 2013). Mindfulness
enhances positive affect, and reduces negative affect, and maladaptive
automatic emotional responses (Hofmann, Sawyer, Fang, & Asnaani,
2012; Koole, 2009). The brain areas responsible for affect regulation,
and stress impulse reaction are also affected with mindfulness training
(Davidson et al., 2003; Hlzel et al., 2011; Lazar et al., 2005).
1.2. Self-esteem as mediator
Self-esteem represents the affective, or evaluative, component of the
self-concept; it signies how people feel about themselves (Leary &
Baumeister, 2000). Originally, self-esteem was dened as a onedimensional construct, which refers to a person's general sense of
worth (Rosenberg, 1965). Self-esteem can be enhanced by using welldesigned interventions (Robins, Trzesniewski, & Donnellan, 2012).
High self-esteem prospectively predicts success in life domains such as
relationships, work, and health (Orth & Robins, 2014). Self-esteem is
related to a variety of positive psychological outcomes, including
psychological adjustment, positive emotion, prosocial behavior (Leary
& MacDonald, 2003). In a recent review of mindfulness and selfesteem; Randal, Pratt, and Bucci (2015) found a signicant relationship
between mindfulness and self-esteem. Prior research has supported
that mindfulness is associated with self-esteem (Brown & Ryan, 2003;

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B. Bajaj et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 96 (2016) 127131

Pepping, O'Donovan, & Davis, 2013; Thompson & Waltz, 2008). Higher
mindfulness makes an individual less engrossed by negative feelings
and thoughts that represent low self-esteem (Pepping et al., 2013).
Increased awareness and describing through mindfulness may encourage people to maintain attention on present experiences, making them
less likely to experience negative beliefs or critical thoughts, further
enhancing self-esteem. The enhanced self-esteem acts as a cushion for
people against feelings of anxiety, it enhances coping, and promotes
physical and mental health (Greenberg et al., 1992; Pepping et al.,
2013; Taylor & Brown, 1988). Individuals with low self-esteem, experience virtually every negative emotion more often than those with high
self-esteem (Goswick & Jones, 1981; Leary, 1983; Taylor & Brown,
1988). Mindfulness may help people to recognize that thoughts and
feelings are events in the mind and not self-evident truths or aspects
of the self. This might reduce the tendency to develop strong emotions
as a consequence of cognitions related to low self-esteem (Michalak,
Teismann, Heidenreich, Strohle, & Vocks, 2011). Thus, mindfulness
inuences self-esteem and the enhanced self-esteem affects levels of
anxiety and depression.
Self-esteem is strongly correlated with anxiety and depression in
cross-sectional studies (Liu, Wang, Zhou, & Li, 2014; Michalak et al.,
2011; Pinniger, Brown, Thorsteinsson, & McKinley, 2012). Moreover,
numerous longitudinal studies have demonstrated that low selfesteem prospectively predicts increases over time in anxiety and
depression, whereas anxiety and depression do not predict declining
levels of self-esteem (Orth & Robins, 2014; Sowislo & Orth, 2013).
Thus, consistent with our proposed mediation model, the research
literature supports the claim that low self-esteem leads to anxiety and
depression, but does not support an effect of anxiety and depression
on self-esteem.
Based on the preceding rationale and available literature showing
that mindfulness contributes to self-esteem (Brown & Ryan, 2003;
Thompson & Waltz, 2008), and that self-esteem correlate to depression
and anxiety (Liu et al., 2014; Rasmussen & Pidgeon, 2011), in this study,
self-esteem was hypothesized to mediate the relationship between
mindfulness and anxiety and depression. Thus mindfulness will
indirectly predict lower levels of anxiety and depression through selfesteem. To our knowledge, no study has been encountered to examine
the effects of mindfulness on depression through self-esteem and to
examine the effects of mindfulness on anxiety through self-esteem in
a sample of students in Indian context.
Life at a university can be quite complex and demanding with the
heavy burden of studies and the high levels of stress due to study/life
balance, nancial problems, and relationship related issues. University
students also feel lonely and homesick as they are away from their
parents and live independently. In this period, many students may
face anxiety and depression due to these problems. Thus, the present
study might throw some light on the potential psychological mechanism in helping university students in reducing anxiety and depression.
2. Method
2.1. Participants
417 undergraduate students from an Indian university volunteered
to take part in the study. In the sample, 305 were males and 112 were
females. The mean age of the sample was 20.2 years (standard
deviation = 1.4 years).

automatically, without being aware of what I'm doing and I nd


myself doing things without paying attention. Excellent testretest
reliability, good internal consistency, and good convergent and
discriminant validity have been found with the MAAS (Bajaj, Gupta, &
Pande, 2016; Brown & Ryan, 2003).
2.2.2. Self-esteem
Self-esteem was assessed with the 10 item Rosenberg Self-Esteem
Scale (RSES; Rosenberg, 1965). The participants expressed their
agreement on a four point Likert type scale ranging from 1 = strongly
disagree to 4 = strongly agree. It includes items such as, I feel that I
have a number of good qualities. and I feel that I'm a person of
worth. The RSES has good levels of reliability and validity (Kong,
Zhao, & You, 2012; Zhao, Kong, & Wang, 2013).
2.2.3. Anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression scores were measured with Depression
Anxiety Stress Scales short version-21 (DASS; Lovibond & Lovibond,
1993). Seven items for anxiety and seven items for depression were
used from DASS-21 to measure anxiety and depression respectively.
Participants were asked to provide Likert ratings of their symptoms
(0 = did not apply to me, 3 = applied to me very much or most of
the time). It includes items for anxiety such as, I felt scared without
any good reason and I was worried about situations in which I
might panic and make a fool of myself. It includes items for depression
such as, I felt that I had nothing to look forward to and I was unable to
become enthusiastic about anything. The DASS 21 has good levels of
reliability and validity (Antony, Bieling, Cox, Enns, & Swinson, 1998;
Henry & Crawford, 2005).
2.3. Procedure
Participants completed surveys consisting of the MASS, RSES, and
DASS (14 items) in the classroom environment. The researcher assured
the participants of the condentiality of their responses. To handle any
queries raised by the participants, a trained research assistant was
available throughout the process. It took approximately 15 min for the
students to complete the surveys.
2.4. Data analysis
SEM procedure using AMOS 18.0 was used to investigate the impact
of self-esteem on the relationship between mindfulness and anxiety
and depression. To evaluate the overall t of the model to data, several
indices recommended by Hu and Bentler (1999) were calculated in the
study: Chi square statistics; root-mean-square error of approximation
(RMSEA) of.06 or less; Standardized Root-Mean-Square Residual
(SRMR) of .08 or less; and Comparative Fit Index (CFI), best if above
.95. Three item parcels for each of the mindfulness and self-esteem
and two item parcels for each of the anxiety, and depression factors
were formed to control inated measurement errors caused by multiple
items for the latent factor. These parcels were created using an item-toconstruct balance approach i.e. successively assigning highest and
lowest loading items across parcels (Bajaj & Pande, 2016; Little,
Cunningham, Shahar, & Widaman, 2002).

2.2. Measures

3. Results

2.2.1. Mindfulness
Mindfulness was assessed with 15 item Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS; Brown & Ryan, 2003). The participants expressed
their agreement on a six point Likert type scale ranging from 1 = almost
always, to 6 = almost never. It includes items such as, I do jobs or tasks

3.1. Preliminary analysis


The means, standard deviations, reliability estimates (Cronbach's
alpha coefcients), and correlations for all study variables are displayed
in Table 1. All measures were signicantly correlated.

B. Bajaj et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 96 (2016) 127131


Table 1
Mean, Standard Deviations (SD), reliabilities, and intercorrelations among study
measures.
Measure

Mean

SD

1. Mindfulness
2. Self-esteem
3. Anxiety
4. Depression

3.8
2.8
0.82
0.82

0.77
0.43
0.49
0.58

0.84
0.81
0.72
0.79

0.44
0.42
0.43

0.30
0.58

0.45

Note: : Cronbach's Alpha.


. Correlation is signicant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

129

3.4. Assessment of mediation


Bootstrapping procedures in AMOS were used to test the
signicance of the mediation effects of self-esteem. In this study 5000
bootstrapping samples were generated from the original data set
(N = 417) by random sampling. The mediating effect of self-esteem
and its associated 95% condence intervals are displayed in Table 3.
According to results, mindfulness exerted its indirect effect on anxiety
and depression through the mediating effect of self-esteem.
3.5. Gender differences

3.2. Measurement model


The measurement model comprises of four latent factors
(mindfulness, self-esteem, anxiety, and depression) and 10 observed
variables. The preliminary analysis of the measurement model provided
an excellent t to the data. 2 = 32.4, df = 29; p = .304; RMSEA =
.017; PClose = .989; SRMR = .010; and CFI = .998. Reliable factor
loadings were found for the indicators on the latent variables, indicating
that respective indicators are true representative of their latent factors.

Multi-group analysis was conducted to identify whether the path


coefcients differ signicantly between females and males. The gender
differences were examined by comparing the rst model, which allows
the structural paths to vary across sexes, with the second model, which
constrains the structural paths between females and males to be equal.
The results showed that the constrained model was not signicantly
different from the rst model, 2 (5, N = 417) = 5.07, p N .05,
suggesting no signicant gender differences. Inspection of each path
coefcient further conrmed that all the associations were similar in
magnitude for male and female groups. These results provided a preliminary support for the robustness of the nal meditational model.

3.3. Structural model


4. Discussions
SEM procedure using AMOS 18.0 was conducted to test the proposed structural relationships among study variables. In order to nd
the best model, three alternative models were assessed. The t indices
of the alternative models are presented in Table 2. The hypothesized
model (Model 1) showed excellent t to data: 2 = 60.4, df = 30,
p = .001; RMSEA = 0.049; PClose = .497; SRMR = .016; and CFI =
.982. Tests of parameter estimates indicated that all the direct path
coefcients were signicant in the proposed directions, indicating a
partial mediation role of self-esteem in the relationship between
mindfulness, anxiety, and depression (Fig. 1).
To test the hypothesis that self-esteem would partially mediate the
mindfulness, anxiety and depression relationship, a full mediation
model (Model 2) with the direct paths from mindfulness to anxiety
and depression constrained to zero was compared with partial
mediation model (Model 1) with the above direct paths not constrained
not constrained to zero. The comparison was done using chi square
difference test. Results showed that, after eliminating the above direct
paths, the t of the model reduced signicantly (2 (2, N = 417) =
32.0, P b 0.05). Consequently, the partial mediation model (Model
1) was obviously better than Model 2.
Next, a partially mediated model (Model 3) with anxiety and
depression as mediators between mindfulness and self-esteem was
tested. The t indices of Model 3 were: 2 = 70.4, df = 30, p = .000;
RMSEA = .057; PClose = 0.238; SRMR = .022; and CFI = .977. The
Model 3 was inferior to Model 1 and Model 2.
On the basis of the results, it could be concluded that the Model 1
was the best one. Thus, self-esteem partially mediated the relationship
between mindfulness and anxiety and depression.

Table 2
Fit indices among competing models.

Model 1
Model 2
Model 3

df

2/df

RMSEA

SRMR

CF1

AIC

ECVI

60.4
92.4
70.4

30
32
30

2.013
2.887
2.347

0.049
0.067
0.057

0.016
0.028
0.022

0. 982
0.965
0.977

110.393
138.394
120.419

0.265
0.333
0.289

Note: N = 417, RMSEA = root-mean square error of approximation; SRMR =


standardized root-mean-square residual; CFI = Comparative Fit Index; AIC = Akaike information criterion; and ECVI = expected cross-validation index.

The current study was conducted to examine the mediating role of


self-esteem on the relationship between mindfulness, anxiety and
depression. Correlational results showed that mindfulness was
negatively related to anxiety and depression and positively related to
self-esteem. These results are consistent with previous research that reported relationships between mindfulness and anxiety and depression
(Bowlin & Baer, 2012; Tang et al., 2007; Teasdale et al., 2000;
Williams, 2008) and self-esteem (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Thompson &
Waltz, 2008). Furthermore, the association of self-esteem with anxiety
and depression is consistent with previous research on the negative relation between self-esteem and anxiety and depression (Liu et al., 2014;
Michalak et al., 2011; Pinniger et al., 2012).
The most important nding of this study is that self-esteem acted as
a mediator of the relationship between mindfulness and anxiety and
depression. In other words, individuals with high levels of mindfulness
are likely to engage in greater self-esteem, which in turn contributed to
decrease in anxiety and depression. These results are consistent with
previous studies reporting the mediating role of self-esteem between
mindfulness and anxiety (Rasmussen & Pidgeon, 2011). This indicates
that the previously reported mediating role of self-esteem (Rasmussen
& Pidgeon, 2011) is robust with a different cultural sample (Indian
university students). Although some earlier studies have examined
the potential mediators between mindfulness and depression (Alleva,
Roelofs, Voncken, Meevissen, & Alberts, 2014; Jimenez, Niles, & Park,
2010), there is little research that has investigated self-esteem as
mediator between mindfulness and depression. The current study
rstly examined self-esteem as mediator between mindfulness and
depression. The study results highlight the importance of self-esteem
in the relationship between mindfulness and anxiety and depression.
Results of multi-group analysis showed no signicant gender
differences and thus provided a preliminary support for the robustness
of the nal meditational model.
The considerable benets of mindfulness on self-esteem may be due
to increased awareness and describing through mindfulness, which
may encourage people to maintain attention on present experiences,
making them less likely to experience negative beliefs or critical
thoughts, further enhancing self-esteem. Higher mindfulness makes
an individual less engrossed by negative feelings and thoughts, further
enhancing self-esteem, and the enhanced self-esteem acts as a cushion
for people against feelings of anxiety, it enhances coping, and promotes

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B. Bajaj et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 96 (2016) 127131

Fig. 1. The Structural Equation Model regarding the mediating effect of self-esteem on the relation between mindfulness, anxiety, and depression. Note: factor loadings are standardized.
M1M3 = three parcels of mindfulness; SE1SE3 = three parcels of self-esteem; ANX1ANX2 = two parcels of anxiety; DEP1DEP2 = two parcels of depression.

physical and mental health (Greenberg et al., 1992; Pepping et al., 2013;
Taylor & Brown, 1988). Individuals with higher mindfulness might notice self-critical thoughts and identify them as thoughts rather than
truth, and acts as a buffer for low self-esteem (Michalak et al., 2011).
Based on this rationale, it is reasonable to infer that self-esteem plays
a mediating role in the relationship between mindfulness and anxiety
and depression.
Individuals with higher mindfulness might identify thoughts as
mental processes rather than facts. Further, mindfulness approach
might encourage individuals with low self-esteem not to be critical
with their thoughts, feelings and stimuli. These hypotheses need to be
investigated in future research to uncover important underlying
mechanisms by which mindfulness enhances self-esteem.
Our ndings suggest that intervention programs addressing anxiety
and depression may need to focus on helping participants recognize
their own sense of worth through enhancing their mindfulness levels.
Programs aimed at increasing both mindfulness and self-esteem are
likely to reduce anxiety and depression. Mindfulness interventions
may help promote levels of self-esteem that is secure and based on
heightened awareness and acceptance of self-traits (Brown et al.,
2007). This is in contrast to social comparison and self-evaluative
methods that may lead to fragile self-esteem (Schne, Tandler, &
Stiensmeier-Pelster, 2015; Wood, Anthony, & Foddis, 2006). Mindfulness may be used to enhance self-esteem, without temporarily
bolstering positive views of oneself by focusing on achievement or
transient factors. Thus mindfulness may increase secure form of high
self-esteem. Mindfulness training by improving self-esteem may subvert the negative self-schemas that elicit and maintain anxiety and
depression. As our sample consists of undergraduate students, the
study results do not allow for rm conclusions regarding the effect of
self-esteem on major anxiety and depression symptoms because we
did not assess clinical levels of anxiety and depression. Nevertheless,
longitudinal studies have demonstrated a relation between low selfesteem and clinically diagnosed anxiety and depression (Sowislo &
Orth, 2013; Trzesniewski et al., 2006), suggesting that the present
results are relevant for levels of anxiety and depression that represent
a signicant impairment in psychological functioning.

Table 3
Bootstrapping indirect effects and 95% condence intervals (CI) for the meditational
model.
Model pathways

Mindfulness Self-esteem Anxiety


Mindfulness Self-esteem Depression

Point estimates

.358
.124

95% CI
Lower

Upper

.475
.227

.269
.030

The current study had some limitations. First, this study had a crosssectional design which makes it difcult to draw any causal relationship
among the variables. In future, researchers may conduct experimental
or longitudinal studies to examine the mediation model. Second, the
data relied exclusively on self-report measures, multiple assessment
methods (e.g., peer reports) may be used to further strengthen the
validity of the ndings in future studies. Another limitation is that the
mediating role of self-esteem has been demonstrated in our study, but
other mediators need to be identied and tested so that the theory
regarding the powerful relationship between mindfulness and anxiety
and depression can be further developed. Future research may also
consider testing whether mediation process works for an internalizing
factor anxiety combined with depression.
Apart from these limitations the current study is the rst attempt to
investigate the relationship between mindfulness, self-esteem, anxiety,
and depression in a sample of students in Indian context. Gathering data
from a sample of Indian participants offers meaningful evidence for
external validity for mindfulness as the predictor of self-esteem,
anxiety, and depression. The study provides important implications
for understanding the link between mindfulness, self-esteem, anxiety
and depression and treating anxiety and depression. As mindfulness
may increase secure form of high self-esteem, the ndings of this
mechanism can provide useful suggestions to design intervention and
prevention programs. These interventions can have impact on students'
anxiety and depression in university years and this learning may help
them later in their careers as well.
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