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

  1. Delgado, Naira 1
  2. Bonache, Helena 1
  3. Morera, Yurena 1
  4. Betancort, Moisés 1
  5. Harris, Lasana T. 2
  1. 1 Universidad de La Laguna

    Universidad de La Laguna

    San Cristobal de La Laguna, España

    ROR https://ror.org/01r9z8p25

  2. 2 University College London

    University College London

    Londres, Reino Unido

    ROR https://ror.org/02jx3x895


ISSN: 2227-9032

Year of publication: 2021

Volume: 9

Issue: 2

Pages: 158

Type: Article

Author's full text: lock_openOpen access editor


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.

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