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Kendra Cherry

Study Suggests that Middle-Aged Adults are More Empathetic

By February 7, 2013

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Are you looking for someone who can empathize with your pain? Then consider talking about your situation to a woman in her 50s. According to a new study, women in their 50s are more empathetic than other age groups as well more empathetic than men of the same age.


After analyzing the results from three large-scale samples of more than 75,000 U.S. adults, researchers discovered a U-shaped pattern for empathy across adult age groups. Younger and older adults reported less empathy and middle aged adults reported more. "[Middle-aged adults] reported that they were more likely to react emotionally to the experiences of others, and they were also more likely to try to understand how things looked from the perspective of others," explained Sara Konrath, one of the study's authors.

Another of the study's authors, Ed O'Brien, suggested that the U-shaped pattern might be the result of rising levels of cognitive abilities and emotional functioning that occur in the early years of adulthood and the declines in cognitive abilities and emotional functioning that occur later in adulthood. However, the authors note that more research is needed to determine if this empathy pattern is truy the result of age.

"Given the fundamental role of empathy in everyday social life and its relationship to many important social activities such as volunteering and donating to charities, it's important to learn as much as we can about what factors increase and decrease empathic responding," Konrath suggested.

Image: moodboardphotography (CC BY 2.0)


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