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Women Have More Empathy to Partner

Women Have More Empathy to Partner

Although it has long been suspected that women are more empathetic toward their partner, a new study has come to the same conclusion using scientific inquiry and empirical research.

Australian researchers, Dr Cindy Mervin and Professor Paul Frijters, found that women were noticeably affected when their partner was ill or when their partner experienced the death of a friend.

Conversely, men were not significantly affected by the negative events in their partners life.

Researchers discovered female partner’s levels of empathy could be measured as comparable (24 percent) to the event happening directly to themselves, whereas men’s emotional lives were not linked to the experiences of their partner.

“It is not that men are unemotional or uncaring, since they are quite strongly affected by what happens to themselves, but they simply are not very emotional when it comes to the feelings of their partner,” said Dr Mervin.

“It is possible that men are probably more affected by their own roles and image as partners, than by the actual feelings of their partner,” said Professor Frijters.

“This research found there is a multiplier or spillover effect on events happening to one person from the pain or joy caused to others. Negative and positive shocks affect other people in the family and probably also in the neighborhood,” said Dr Mervin.

The researchers used data from a national study on Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) to analyze how the mental health of individuals changed when something happened to their partner.

“The study also found parents were more affected by negative shocks happening to their partner than non-parents, owing to the entwined interests of the partner and the family,” Professor Frijters said.

Researchers found that partners can affect each other’s mental health in a variety of fashions.

If a partner is experiencing mental distress, for example, the results may extend beyond a direct empathetic effect.

The mental distress may reduce the amount of time a partner is able to spend on household chores, reduce contact with children or other family members — behaviors that may result in additional work by their companion.

Source: Griffith Health Institute

Empathetic wife caring for sick husband photo by shutterstock.

Women Have More Empathy to Partner

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Women Have More Empathy to Partner. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 19 Dec 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.