Hernando Santamaría-García, Sandra Baez, Adolfo M. García, Daniel Flichtentrei, María Prats, Ricardo Mastandueno, Mariano Sigman, Diana Matallana, Marcelo Cetkovich, Agustín Ibáñez. Empathy for others’ suffering and its mediators in mental health professionals. 2017

Empathy for others’ suffering and its mediators in mental health professionals

AUTORES Hernando Santamaría-García, Sandra Baez, Adolfo M. García, Daniel Flichtentrei, María Prats, Ricardo Mastandueno, Mariano Sigman, Diana Matallana, Marcelo Cetkovich, Agustín Ibáñez
AÑO 2017
JOURNAL Scientific Reports 
VOLUMEN July 25, 2017
ABSTRACT

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.

RESUMEN La empatía permite experimentar preocupación por los demás, comprender sus emociones y brindar ayuda. Estudiamos diferentes dimensiones de la empatía en los trabajadores de la salud mental (TSM) en relación con los médicos generales y no médicos; y evaluamos su relación con factores relevantes, tales como cognición moral, edad, sexo, años de experiencia y lugar de trabajo (total=1109 participantes). Los TSM mostraron mayor preocupación empática e incomodidad por el sufrimiento ajeno, y atribuyeron más castigo a las acciones dañinas de otros. En los TSM, la respuesta empatica se explicó por el tipo de juicio moral, los años de experiencia y el lugar de trabajo (consulta privada > hospital). Así, la empatía está continuamente en juego en la atención de salud mental, y puede verse afectada por factores contextuales y contingencias sociales.