The Development of Empathy and Associated Factors during Medical Education: A Longitudinal Study


In this longitudinal study, we investigated the development of empathy during medical education and assessed potential predictors of empathy at different time points in the course of medical studies. In our longitudinal study, starting in 2011, we surveyed medical students at Lübeck Medical School, Germany at the beginning of their course of study and after 2, 4, and 6 years (t0-t3) using standard instruments for empathy (Jefferson Scale of Empathy, Student Version, JSE-S), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, HADS), stress (Perceived Medical School Stress scale), and behavior and experience patterns (Arbeitsbezogene Verhaltens- und Erlebensmuster [Work-related Behavior and Experience Patterns]). A total of 43 students completed all surveys. The cross-sectional samples for the different survey time points comprised between n = 220 and 658 students. We observed a slight, but statistically significant, increase of empathy scores from t0 to t3 (t(43) = -3.09, P < .01). Across all analyses, a preference for a people-oriented specialty was associated with a higher JSE-S sum score, as well as being female, whereas we saw a negative association between HADS depression and JSE-S scores. In our study, empathy scores were shown to be relatively stable during medical education with a tendency to increase. In line with previous research, individuals preferring a people-oriented specialty and women showed higher empathy scores.
Original languageGerman
JournalJournal of Medical Education and Curricular Development
Pages (from-to)238212052110301
Publication statusPublished - 01.2021

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