Empathy for others’ suffering and its mediators in mental health professionals
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García, Adolfo M.
Empathy is a complex cognitive and affective process that allows humans to experience concern for others, comprehend their emotions, and eventually help them. In addition to studies with healthy subjects and various neuropsychiatric populations, a few reports have examined this domain focusing on mental health workers, whose daily work requires the development of a saliently empathic character. Building on this research line, the present population-based study aimed to (a) assess different dimensions of empathy for pain in mental health workers relative to general-physicians and non-medical workers; and (b) evaluate their relationship with relevant factors, such as moral profile, age, gender, years of experience, and workplace type. Relative to both control groups, mental health workers exhibited higher empathic concern and discomfort for others’ suffering, and they favored harsher punishment to harmful actions. Furthermore, this was the only group in which empathy variability was explained by moral judgments, years of experience, and workplace type. Taken together, these results indicate that empathy is continuously at stake in mental health care scenarios, as it can be affected by contextual factors and social contingencies. More generally, they highlight the importance of studying this domain in populations characterized by extreme empathic demands.