Stability and Differences in Empathy Between Men and Women Medical Students: a Panel Design Study

Baila Elkin, Eric Martin LaPlant, Andrew P.J. Olson, Claudio Violato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Phenomenon: Empathy is central to the physician–patient relationship, and affects clinical outcomes. There is uncertainty about the stability of empathy in medical students over the course of medical school, as well as differences in empathy between men and women. Approach: A panel study design was used to follow first year through fourth year medical students (MS1–4) during the 2018–2019 school year. Empathy was measured using the interpersonal reactivity index (IRI), a self-report scale that separates empathy into a cognitive perspective taking (PT) and affective empathic concern (EC) component. Findings: A total of 631 (359 women and 272 men) from 970 students (65% response rate) responded to a baseline survey, and a total of 536 students (300 women and 236 men) from 970 students (55% response rate) responded to surveys throughout the year. At baseline, women had significantly higher EC scores than men (p < 0.0001), with no significant PT difference between men and women (p > 0.05). These differences were stable for all MS cohorts. Insights: Women had self-reported higher affective empathy (EC component) than men, while there were no differences in cognitive empathy (PT component). We discuss these data in the context of defining gender vs. sex, socialized gender stereotypes, and implications for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1851-1858
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Science Educator
Volume31
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Jackie Gauer Austin Calhoun

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, International Association of Medical Science Educators.

Keywords

  • Empathy
  • Gender
  • Medical students

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Stability and Differences in Empathy Between Men and Women Medical Students: a Panel Design Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this