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Understanding the Links between Inferring Mental States, Empathy, and Burnout in Medical Contexts

Delgado, N; Bonache, H; Betancort, M; Morera, Y; Harris, LT; (2021) Understanding the Links between Inferring Mental States, Empathy, and Burnout in Medical Contexts. Healthcare , 9 (2) , Article 158. 10.3390/healthcare9020158. Green open access

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Abstract

It is generally accepted that empathy should be the basis of patient care. However, this ideal may be unrealistic if healthcare professionals suffer adverse effects when engaging in empathy. The aim of this study is to explore the effect of inferring mental states and different components of empathy (perspective-taking; empathic concern; personal distress) in burnout dimensions (emotional exhaustion; depersonalization; personal accomplishment). A total of 184 healthcare professionals participated in the study (23% male, Mage = 44.60; SD = 10.46). We measured participants’ empathy, the inference of mental states of patients, and burnout. Correlation analyses showed that inferring mental states was positively associated with perspective-taking and with empathic concern, but uncorrelated with personal distress. Furthermore, emotional exhaustion was related to greater levels of personal distress and greater levels of inferences of mental states. Depersonalization was associated with greater levels of personal distress and lower levels of empathic concern. Personal accomplishment was associated with the inference of mental states in patients, lower levels of personal distress, and perspective-taking. These results provide a better understanding of how different components of empathy and mental state inferences may preserve or promote healthcare professionals’ burnout.

Type: Article
Title: Understanding the Links between Inferring Mental States, Empathy, and Burnout in Medical Contexts
Location: Switzerland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3390/healthcare9020158
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9020158
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: empathy; mental states inferences; burnout; healthcare professionals
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10122402
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